MANCELONA — Kayla Moore hadn’t crocheted for about four years before she picked up a hook three months ago.
Her heart simply wasn’t in it after her grandmother died.
“When she passed away, I didn’t have the ambition to do it anymore,” Moore said. “We used to have chocolate milk and crochet.”
The 17-year-old Mancelona High School student began crocheting strings and scarves alongside her grandmother when she was 8. But when her grandmother — a breast cancer survivor — died, the pastime lost its luster.
Then it happened, she found a reason to pick up where she left off.
Moore spotted a picture her aunt Kathy Lightbody posted on Facebook in November. Lightbody had been diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2013 and had been undergoing chemo treatments that made her hair fall out. In some of the photos she wore a crocheted hat she had picked up from a box at an oncology treatment center.
Moore decided at that moment that she would learn to make a hat, a really nice one, a hat she could give to Lightbody for Christmas.
So she picked up her grandmother’s crochet hook and flipped through a few YouTube videos.
“The first one had a big hole, about the size of a silver dollar,” Moore said.
She then made a black hat with a gray border for Lightbody. It was a piece of herself, maybe a little comfort, she could give her aunt who lives in the Detroit area and receives her treatments there.
“It wasn’t one of the best ones, but she still liked it,” Moore said. “She cried.”
“The fact that it came from my niece made it so much sweeter,” Lightbody said, adding that she wanted another hat, but was reluctant to take another one from a donation box at the clinic.
Lightbody, who was used to having long, flowing hair, had prepared herself for baldness after her diagnosis. She donated her hair to charity before it fell out and she bought wigs. But the wigs weren’t comfortable and she realized she was OK being bald.
The only problem was that a lifetime of hair made her head pretty sensitive to temperature changes. Drafty houses and even air conditioning breezes were uncomfortable, she said.
That’s where the hats came in.
And it was with that first hat the Moore began the crusade she continues today. After Christmas, she kept crocheting, kept making hats during her spare time. The hats didn’t have a destination, and Moore’s mother Joanie asked her where they would go.
“She said, ‘I’m going to give them to other cancer patients,’” Joanie Moore said.
They were made from bright colors, some with stripes and flowers and others without. And they needed homes.
Kayla Moore called Munson Medical Center, Beaumont Hospital in Detroit and the University of Michigan Hospital and asked each oncology unit if they could use hats. All said yes.
The staff at U of M told her they intended to give gift bags to 600 patients on Valentine’s Day. They asked if she could make 100 hats to put in the bags.
Moore began to crochet furiously and enlisted the help of anybody who had time. She put a call out via Facebook for people who could crochet or who wanted to donate yarn. Nicki Williams answered the call.
With help from people like Williams, Moore crocheted 106 hats to send to U of M by the deadline. And she got a start on a batch of 50 requested by Beaumont.
Supporters have shipped boxes of yarn handed over cash to help defray the costs of making the hats. By last week, Moore estimated that donors had sent 70-80 skeins of yarn. Some of it is wool, which is too itchy so she can’t use it for hats for cancer patients, but she appreciates the sentiment anyway.
Lightbody says she was lucky. Her cancer was treatable and left her better off than many. And she got a glimpse of true selflessness as she watched her niece take inspiration from her experience.
“Because of me, Kayla has been inspired to do something so kind for so many other people?” she said. “That’s truly amazing. I’m humbled.”
If you’d like to help the cause, Moore will be completing a donation to Beaumont then moving onto making hats for Munson Medical Center. You may contact her via email at email@example.com or you may send donations to her family’s plumbing and heating company, Moore Plumbing and Heating, Inc. 9136 Limits SW, Mancelona, Mich. 49659.