Knitter behind 10,000 donated hats gets to make special visit


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Five years ago, Betty Golden set a goal of knitting and donating 63 children's capsone to mark each year of marriage with the husband she had recently lost.

With the help of volunteers, Golden’s knitting project just stitched its way to a major milestone: 10,000 hats. One afternoon last week, Golden celebrated another big moment: After years of dropping off shipments of hats at the front desk at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, she finally got a chance to meet pediatric patients and their families during a special knitting party in her honor.

A couple weeks shy of 88, Golden, of Atlanta, sang and carried children’s caps as she entered the Zone, a play area at Children’s Scottish Rite. She also donned a purple elf-shaped hat, knitted for the special occasion.

With word about the knitting event spreading through fliers and hospital staff making announcements, families streamed into the gathering space teeming with soft hats (and scarves and blankets, too), knitting looms, games and music. Golden eagerly handed out nonallergenic hats — teal and pink berets, along with striped winter caps, many with intricate designs.

“This got my son out of bed and out of his room,” Sally Krieger said about her son Anderson, undergoing treatment for leukemia. “My son was excited. He said, ‘I want to learn to knit.’”

Anderson, 11, loves sports, particularly baseball, but arts and crafts have proved to be a nice diversion during his hospital stays.

“Arts and crafts are like therapy for him: He’s made birdhouses, treasure boxes, and has even done a stained-glass project,” Krieger said.

Wearing a UGA baseball cap, Anderson grabbed red yarn and after a quick lesson on how to use a knitting loom, started making a scarf.

“It’s wonderful what she’s done,” Krieger said. “She is someone who has touched so many lives.”

Joy Suarez stopped by with her children, Abby, 10, and Alijah, 11. Suarez’s newborn baby, Alex, was in the neonatal intensive care unit after undergoing surgery for esophageal atresia, a rare birth defect in which the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat with the stomach) does not develop normally.

Abby and Alijah picked out colorful hats and put them on. Alijah found a finger puppet attached to his hat and told his mother he would give it to his baby brother. Abby got a lesson in knitting. Golden gave her a ball of purple yarn and loom kit on her way out. She gave Suarez a soft blanket. Golden hugged everyone.

Golden’s knitting project started in 2009, not long after husband Stan Golden collapsed and died.

Knitting was a way to ease nervous energy and honor her late husband. She called the endeavor “The Project of Love Remembering Stan.” A handful of volunteers joined her cause. Some join her at a Michael’s craft store in Smyrna to knit between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturdays; others donate yarn. In addition to Children’s, her knitting group donates hats to children living in homeless shelters and other children in need.

In general, gifts to Children’s such as Golden’s handmade hats are dropped off, and those making the donations don’t meet patients face to face. But Golden, who has long wanted to meet patients and their families, took her request to Steven Wagner, major gifts manager at Children’s. He happily agreed to coordinate efforts allowing Golden to spend time with young patients and their families.

Golden knitted so much she began suffering carpal tunnel syndrome, requiring surgery on her left arm a few years ago. Nowadays, she enjoys knitting at night while watching Braves games. She completes a few hats every week.

She has faced challenges from time to time but manages to keep the project going. When her stock of yarn and other supplies dwindled a few years ago, she started making and selling scarves. The money she earned from the scarves went toward buying more yarn and covering expenses.

“Knitters don’t quit,” she said. “It’s good for the heart.”

As the party at Children’s wound down, Golden was joyful. She tried to savor the moment.

“I wish I could freeze this moment in time. After so many years of wanting to be with the kids, it was amazing. … This was on my bucket list.”