When the IWK Children’s Hospital announced that they needed more finger puppets, Amy Morais decided it was time to pick up her knitting needles – something she hadn’t done since she was a child.
“I’m really big on helping them,” says Morais. “They saved Melody; she would be here if it wasn’t for them.”
Melody is Morais’ 14-year-old daughter who has been going to the Nova Scotia-based hospital since she was a baby. Initially, Melody’s reasons for being a patient were complications related to a premature birth, but at age six she diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Amy Morais and her daughter, Melody, show some of the puppets they brought with them to the IWK Children’s Hospital.
Morais last knitted while in Brownies, a faction of the Canadian version of Girl Scouts. She says that despite not having the skills some knitters do, she does what she can. This includes donations from herself and Melody’s grandmother and encouraging others to donate through her Finger Puppets for IWK Facebook page.
The call that Morais answered was in September 2016 and the hospital has since replenished their puppet supply. Kylene Mellor, Manager of Volunteer Resources with the IWK, says the hospital can distribute up to 1000 puppets a month.
“Depending on the time of month and year, we can get more interest than that (from patients and donors),” says Mellor. “We get everything from a basic two eyes and a mouth people to superheroes to alligators and giraffes.”
All designs are welcome, as long as they fall within certain guidelines.
“Sometimes we’ll have people inquire about google eyes or buttons or even the felt ones that have parts that can come off,” says Mellor. “Unfortunately, we can’t use those ones.”
For her puppets, Morais makes Minions from the Despicable Me franchise.
“They are so easy – two colours, one eye and you’re done,” she says.
Even though she’s now a teenager, Melody still receives puppets during hospital visits.
“It makes it a little less scary and it’s kind of like a reward for doing good,” says Melody who now has about 60 puppets. “It kind of brightens a kid’s day.”
But the IWK isn’t the only hospital that takes these types of donations.
Chris Liszak, from Niagara Falls, Ontario, has also made puppets for several hospitals in her area. She was initially contacted by a clown who noticed the need during one of his hospital visits.
“He challenged our (knitting) group, so I worked out a few until I had an easy, repeatable pattern and gave it to our group,” says Liszak.
Liszak says taking on the project has been worth it, based on comments she’s received from the clown.
“It seems to give them (the children) a moment of delight in an otherwise dreary and painful day,” she says. “It instantly becomes a new friend and is such a little thing to create such a big, happy feeling.”
Chris Liszak’s finger puppet designs include people and dogs.
Like Morais, Liszak encourages others to donate to hospitals and has shared her pattern on her blog, Chris Knits in Niagara.
“The biggest reward came when I started getting comments and emails from knitters that they have made many of these for children in hospitals and schools around the world,” she says. “It was just a little blog post, meant for me and my friends to find the pattern easily and it has contributed to healing knitting everywhere.”
As for Morais, she and her mother recently donated 332 puppets and teddy bears to the IWK and would like to reach a personal of goal of 1000 donations by the end of 2017.
“I will knit finger puppets for the IWK for as long as I can,” she says. “I owe them.”
Katie Ingram is a freelance journalist and writer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications including Maclean’s, Halifax Magazine, Atlantic Books Today, The Week and Ravishly.