In the midst of fluorescent lighting, the unnerving hum of machines and the deliberate back and forth motion of doctors and nurses sits a Christmas tree. Once, the tree was full of comfort in the form of knitted hats. There, people could leave an accessory to help patients combat the frigid atmosphere of the hospital. However, despite the necessity for warmth, the tree lost its fruit.
For the Short family, this barren tree was an opportunity to make a difference.
Mother-daughter duo Amy and Grace Short, with the help of their loved ones, established their organization, Yarn for Hearts, where together they knit and crochet items in hopes of providing warmth for cancer and blood disease patients.
Although many donate hats to cancer patients during the winter, JP Hoffman, Grace’s boyfriend, said people don’t think to donate outside of the colder months and believe the hospital will take care of it.
“[The goal of the organization is to] make people feel like there is actually people out there thinking of them, letting them know it’s not just them out there,” Hoffman said. “Not everyone has a family that’s there for them, that can make stuff like that for them.”
The Short family experienced the need for soothing items firsthand when two of their family members, Drew, Grace’s brother, and Amy, were diagnosed with cancer, just a few months apart.
“[My mom] was diagnosed on Dec, 9, 2018,” Grace said. “My brother was diagnosed on March 9, 2018, so at that point, it was like, all right, let’s just hit the ground running.”
At the time of her mother and brother’s diagnosis, Grace, a junior biochemistry major, was attending the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, a school two hours away from her family.
“I had an old professor who would tell us about seeing her kids and grandkids,” Grace said. “She would just tell stories about her family all the time, and it made me kind of homesick but in a different way. Not spending every night, yeah I wish I could be there, but [I wanted to] be more accessible.”
In the fall Grace decided to transfer to Texas Woman’s University to be closer to her family. The university is only a 25-minute drive from her family, and she said she loves it more than her previous school.
As Grace and her family tried to navigate the difficult time, Hoffman knew he couldn’t fix the situation but wanted to make sure he was there for her any way he could be.
“When you love someone like that and you see what they’re going through, you just want to put yourself in their shoes,” Hoffman said. “All you can do is to be there. Nothing I could I say, nothing I could do that could fix what is happening.”
Currently, Yarn for Hearts has a public Facebook page where anyone can join. Grace said she hopes that by spreading the word about the cause, people will give to their own community. Her goal for the organization is to have members around the nation contribute to their local hospital.
“I would want it to be not just our community giving to one hospital but more like a broader outreach,” Grace said. “Not just one location, but every single location needs something like this.”
Featured image: Grace Short poses for a portrait with her yarn and hats at The Texas Woman’s University Guinn Hall March 4. Photo by Sarah Pham.