Spreading the Love Near and Far


When Richa Gupta and Sudha Pai decided to organize a small group to make caps for cancer patients, they had no idea of the impact it would have. What started in a basement of a Basking Ridge home has grown cross country and even across an ocean.

While growing up in India, Richa and Sudha played and practiced with balls of yarn and needles at a very young age while watching their grandmothers knit. It wasn’t until they had to learn it as part of the school curriculum, however, that they actually became proficient.

The two friends often talked about turning their hobby into something useful. Sudha lost her brother-in-law and sister-in-law to cancer, as well as her maternal aunt, and Richa lost a good friend to cancer. They located an organization called Knots of Love in California that distributes caps to patients going through chemotherapy. When they learned that a half-million caps are needed across the country every year, they knew they had found their cause.

Knit/Crochet with Love was formed in November 2016 with about 5 members. Today, they have over 50 members with three groups in the Basking Ridge area and just became a non-profit organization in September of this year. Ranging in age from 14 to 94, the groups include people from all different backgrounds and levels of skill.

When they started, “we were happy with first the 50 caps,” said Richa. In 2017, they made 1700 caps and their goal for 2018 is to make 2018 caps.

Earlier this year, they made a blanket for a local child battling cancer. Using her favorite colors of pink and purple, it came out so beautifully that they decided to add blankets to their repertoire.

One of the groups is made up of 10 – 12 residents, including a 92 and 94-year-old, who live at Fellowship Village in Basking Ridge. They meet on Wednesdays at 1:30 and make not only the caps and blankets, but also prayer shawls. “We are learning a lot from them too. They are an inspiration,” said Sudha, a computer programmer. It has made the residents feel useful, and has also helped physically. She said some of them suffer from tendonitis and moving and exercising their hands has alleviated their symptoms. Richa, a math tutor at Raritan Valley Community College, loves holding these sessions so much that she stopped working on Wednesdays just to be able to do this.

The yarn that they buy is recommended by the American Cancer Society and is 100% acrylic, dye-free, and contains no wool since it’s a high allergen. They also wash all the items and, if requested, individually wrap them in plastic bags. They even tailor caps for the hospitals’ needs. For example, one asked for airy caps for the summer, which the members call “holey caps.” Another hospital asked for caps for men.

These days, instead of sending all their caps to Knots, they ship out to hospitals directly. Some of these include Memorial Sloan (Basking Ridge), Hackensack University Medical Center, Morristown Memorial, Robert Wood Johnson, and Trinitas in New Jersey, and Swedish Hospital in Seattle (where Richa’s friend passed away), Mount Sinai in New York, and Dana Farber in Massachusetts.

One of the group members thought they should put labels on everything they make, so she sponsored the production of 4000 labels. Now they receive beautiful letters from patients who use the caps and blankets.

In addition to the groups here, friends and family in India have gotten involved and are now making caps for a local cancer hospital in Bombay. One member’s mother-in-law in London makes caps and brings them with her whenever she visits. Another friend in California has also started a similar group.

Now friends from East and South Brunswick and Princeton want to start groups, so Richa and Sudha will go and advise them how to do it. They are looking forward to setting up chapters all over the U.S. and internationally.

Besides the group at Fellowship Village, they also meet on Wednesdays at the Hills Club House from 9:30 to 10:45 and on alternate Sundays in the late afternoons/early evenings in different members’ homes.

They have a Facebook site and their own website, http://www.Knit/CrochetwithLove.com, where people can get more information about volunteering and donating. If you can help, they would love to hear from you.

Written for The Showcase Magazine



Book review of Between You & Me


Dr. Reese Powell is on her way to becoming a pediatric surgeon, a dream that does not belong to her but to her parents. Joining their practice once she’s finished with her training is what she has been prepped for since birth.

Caleb Stoltz is also stuck in a world that he didn’t choose. Growing up Amish under a devout but brutal father left him wanting to get away as soon as possible. And he did, for a while. But after his brother and sister-in-law are murdered, honoring his brother’s dying wish means raising his orphaned niece Hannah and nephew Jacob in their Amish community. It also means returning to the family homestead, where his father still rules with an iron fist.

When 11-year-old Jacob suffers a traumatic injury, Caleb and Reese’s worlds collide. Spending time with each other while Jacob is hospitalized at the Philadelphia hospital where Reese works makes them both question the paths that they’re on. As they both care for the little injured boy, feelings also begin to develop between the two of them. Even though they know if would be impossible to continue their relationship once Jacob is discharged, they can’t help wanting to follow their own dreams.

Susan Wiggs, the author of “Between You & Me” published in 2018, takes her readers deep into Amish country and makes us feel what it’s like to live without basic conveniences most of us take for granted. Electricity, television and cell phones are things the modern world couldn’t imagine living without. She also shows us that love can take hold even in the most challenging situations. Some of the most difficult choices are the ones that can bring us the most happiness, even if that means disappointing others who think that their way is the right way.

A Harvard graduate living on an island in Puget Sound, Washington, in the U.S.A., Susan Wiggs has been on the New York Times bestselling list and has millions of copies of her books in print in many countries and in a variety of languages. With stories focusing on the everyday dramas of regular people, readers can often relate to the struggles that her characters are facing.

To find out more about this author and her books, please visit http://www.susanwiggs.com/.

Written for The Woodbridge Magazine in the U.K.