Freshman year of college, my friend and I decided to take a learn-to-knit class. The teacher was very patient as we worked on our sweaters. (Looking back on it, I’m not sure why the teacher approved such a massive project for a beginner). Even though my friend and I vowed that we’d complete our sweaters by graduation, my “worm blanket” (as I termed it, since it is nowhere near sweater size) is still in a bag in my closet, probably moth food now. My friend completed hers by our 10 year reunion.
Though I feel skillful with the sewing machine, knitting and crochet work is not my thing. So, when crafty friends post their completed yarn projects on Facebook, I have an extra appreciation. I especially admired a former coworker’s creations. Over the years, April has posted photos of everything from baby blankets to pussy hats to chunky scarves that her husband, Oat, would so proudly wear (usually along with a wooly hat and sweater that she also knitted for him). She’d nicknamed him “Mr. Handmade” since he loved to wear so many handmade pieces at one time.
Sadly, this past spring, April’s husband suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Her cheerful knitting project posts were replaced with updates on memorial services, photos from her journey to take his ashes to his homeland Hawaii, and pictures of her cats as they comforted her on her lap. She shared her sorrow, and I was thankful knowing that the support and loving words of her friends helped her through this unbelievable tragedy.
In late summer, I saw a post from another Facebook acquaintance, Dan. A few years back, he had tragically lost his partner, Betsy, who was my former boss (in the same company where April worked), and had since become active in the NJ Sharing Network. The NJ Sharing Network is “the non-profit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for those in need of a life-saving transplant.” Betsy’s organs and tissue were donated to help improve the lives of multiple people. I’d followed Dan’s journey with NJSN since I joined the Betsy’s Dash team in the NJ Sharing Network’s Celebration of Life 5K just a few months after Betsy died. He is now a member of the board of trustees. On Facebook, Dan posted about one of the many NJSN programs, Wrapped in Love, which asks people to knit or crochet shawls to be given to families of organ donors.
Photo courtesy of New Jersey Sharing Network
I had missed seeing April’s creative projects over the past several months, and she posted a few times about how she just didn’t feel up to knitting yet. After seeing Dan’s post, I debated whether I should tag her. Finally, I did it, hoping that this might help her find her knitting passion once again.
April sent me a message back. Little did I know, that after Oat passed away, the NJ Sharing Network helped to coordinate his tissue donation to help improve the lives of others. April felt a connection to NJSN, and said she would consider making a shawl or two from her extra yarn stash. As I read her warm response, tears filled my eyes.
About a month later, April posted that although she was planning on knitting one or two shawls on her own and mailing them in, she decided to attend a Knit Night at the New Jersey Sharing Network’s headquarters in New Providence, too. At the Knit Night, she heard more about the Wrapped in Love program. The families of organ and tissue donors are honored with handmade shawls made by volunteers to show comfort and compassion. Each month, some volunteers meet at the headquarters to label, package, and send the shawls and lap blankets to the families.
Since they are over 100 shawls behind on their need, April decided to start Oat’s Knit-a-Long, and ask fellow knitters to join in to knit a shawl, wrap, or lap blanket for the Wrapped in Love group. As April describes in her blog (click here, to read more) the shawl/wrap/lap blanket “doesn’t have to be any specific size, pattern, or yarn. It needs to be handmade to honor the donor family for the generous gift they have made…Just let me know the fiber content and I’ll add it to the tag with your name and our knit-a-long.” You can send April your donations (contact her through her blog linked above) and she can take them to NJSN, or send them directly to NJSN with a note specifying the fiber content, your name, and Oat’s Knit-a-Long.
April posted a picture her first donation, a beautiful soft wrap made from chunky grey yarn. She also posted a photo of four balls of yarn–a purple, an orange, tan, and olive–that will become her next shawl. She had frogged (ripped out) four of Oat’s hats that she had made, and will combine them into one beautiful donation for a family that will be wrapped in love.
Photo courtesy of April Okano
To join Oat’s Knit-a-Long, click here to read April’s blog and contact her. You may also send them (with a note with the fiber content and specifying that it is for Oat’s Knit-a-Long) directly to New Jersey Sharing Network, Attn: Lisa Colasurdo, 691 Central Ave., New Providence, NJ 07974. To learn more about Wrapped in Love or Knit Nights, visit NJ Sharing Network’s site or contact Lisa Colasurdo at firstname.lastname@example.org 908-516-5687.
Frequently Asked Questions about Wrapped in Love:
- What size or shape does the shawl have to be? We accept any size and any shape (triangle, rectangle, or even a circle)
- What colors do you accept? We accept any colors or color combinations.
- Do you only accept shawls? No, we think anything that is warm and comforting will match our need! Blankets, lap blankets, and even ponchos work too! For men, we also accept scarves.
- Does Wrapped in Love accept yarn donations? Yes! Please contact Lisa (above) for more information.