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