Yarn headwear helps young cancer patients ‘blend in’

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Janelle Schmitt of Jasper and her daughter, Taryn, 13, braid strands of yarn on a Rapunzel wig during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — Known for their courageousness, colorful dresses and luscious hair, Disney Princesses Rapunzel and Elsa are animated icons that empower and bring joy to little ones around the world.

Rapunzel’s magical, golden locks dazzle in “Tangled,” and Elsa’s snow white tresses stir awe in “Frozen.” But Tuesday night, off screen and in person, volunteers gathered indoors at Jasper’s satelite arts space at the city’s municipal swimming pool to recreate their trademark hairdos for a noble cause.

About 20 workshop attendees wove hair-like strings of yarn into crocheted hats adorned with tiaras and flowers to make wigs for children battling cancer. Chemotherapy treatments often leave their little scalps too sensitive for traditional wigs, and area volunteers saw the event as a meaningful way to give back.

“You’re putting a smile back on their face,” said workshop leader Kelley Schipp of Ferdinand. “You’re making them feel magical and beautiful after they’ve lost their hair.”

Schipp volunteers with the Magic Yarn Project, a nonprofit based out of Alaska, whose mission is to bring magic into the lives of children battling cancer and to inspire volunteerism.

She organizes a monthly meeting at the Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand to make styles of the wigs inspired by many recognizable characters. Though event volunteers created only Rapunzel and Elsa wigs Tuesday, the organization also makes a Jack Sparrow version and various superhero hats. Schipp said those pieces of headwear make boys feel powerful.

Addison Hill of Bretzville, 6, tests out different tiaras on her wig during The Magic Yarn Project's workshop to create wigs made from yarn for children who have lost their hair at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday. After adding yarn to the wigs, participants braided and decorated the wigs with crocheted tiaras, snowflakes and flowers. The workshop is usually held monthly at the Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand.

“When they’re wearing something like this, they’re just normal,” she said of all recipients. “They blend in. They’re happy.”

Tuesday’s workshop was organized in conjunction with the Jasper Community Arts. Many participants had never created one of the wigs before and learned for the first time how to snake the multi-colored yarn strands into the hats and wind them into a thick braid. The hats were crotched in advance, and no prior experience was required of the wig makers. Volunteers as young as kindergarteners helped string them together.

Jannelle Schmitt and her daughter, Taryn, saw it as a fun way to spend time together. They’d participated in events at the Art Factory in Huntingburg, but never made anything quite like the Rapunzel wig they wove as a team.

“Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy,” said Taryn, who is an eighth-grader at Jasper Middle School.

Malliyah Reed of Eckerty attended the event with her grandmother, Joyce Reed. Malliyah is a 10th-grader at Crawford County High School, and had prior experience with the local group that meets in Ferdinand. She enjoys the work because it’s an outlet for her to tap into her artistic skills.

“You’re giving kindness to little children who like this, really” she said. “They get to be their favorite princess or superhero.”

Mari Schwarz of Jasper has worked with the group since February. Everytime she applies the finishing touches on a wig, she’s taken aback by their beauty. She puts her heart into them, and it’s her dream to one day see a child put on one of her creations.

Malliyah Reed of Eckerty, 16, left, works on her wig while her grandmother, Joyce, helps Mari Schwarz of Petersburg with her wig during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday.

“They’re all really pretty to see once they’re done and completed,” she said. “Once they’re done, you’re like, you had a part in that. It’s really nice to see.”

According to the organization’s website, 12,240 total wigs have been shipped by the Magic yarn Project to children in need around the world. The local group has sent more than 100, and the latest batch will be moved to the chapter leader for distribution by the end of the week.

Those interested in learning more about the local, monthly workshops can contact Schipp at schippmates@yahoo.com.

More photos from the workshop are below:

With help from Emily Peak of Jasper, right, Maci Combs of Birdseye, 6, measures out lengths of yarn while Katie Warren of St. Anthony helps Addison Hill of Bretzville, 6, add yarn to the wig during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday.

 

Maci Combs of Birdseye, 6, left, tests out different tiaras on her wig while Elsie Warren of St. Anthony, 5, models a tiara and Addison Hill of Bretzville, 6, watches during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday.

 

With help from Paula Book of Jasper, Elsie Warren of St. Anthony, 5, knots strings of yarn to a wig during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday. "I was initially scared off by the crocheting element," Book said. "My mom tried to teach me but it never stuck."

 

Taryn Schmitt of Jasper, 13, and Malliyah Reed of Eckerty, 16, adorn yarn wigs during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday.

 

Joyce Reed of Eckerty, left, and her granddaughter Malliyah Reed of Eckerty, 16, put the finishing touches on their yarn wig during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday.

 

With help from Emily Peak of Jasper, right, Maci Combs of Birdseye, 6, adds strings of yarn to a crochet wig while Katie Warren of St. Anthony helps Addison Hill of Bretzville, 6, during The Magic Yarn Project's wig workshop at the Satellite Arts Space in Jasper on Tuesday.



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