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JBLM spouses knit Little Hats for Big Hearts

Handmade caps for newborns raise awareness of congenital heart defects

Karin Suttor, Charlene Ennis and Kayla Cook show off the tiny red hats created by the JBLM chapter of the American Heart Association’s “Little Hats, Big Hearts” campaign. Photo credit: Little Hats, Big Hearts JBLM

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Military spouses from JBLM and other military family members from around the South Sound have been knitting and crocheting up a storm this year. Next month, neonatal units in the Seattle area will be the recipients of their labors of love as part of the American Heart Association's (AHA) national Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign.

For the second year in a row, Karin Suttor, Charlene Ennis, Kayla Cook, Kim Bretthauer, Louise Pequeno, Jessica Roach, Carla Russell and Isabella Cook have joined forces as the Joint Base Lewis-McChord chapter of the AHA's Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign.

These prolific knitters have gathered once a month to encourage one another and hold each other accountable. Their efforts have paid off -- they've collectively created (and will be donating) 140 tiny red hats, more than twice as many as last year.

They'd like to see that trend continue, but it will require more knitters. Membership in Little Hats, Big Hearts JBLM is limited to military spouses and family members, and "interested JBLM spouses are encouraged to enter by joining the Facebook group, ‘Little Hats, Big Hearts JBLM,'" said Ennis.

Knitters can find an assortment of suggested patterns for little heads at the foundation's website, Because babies come in different sizes, the patterns range in size from super preemie to three months.

Can't tell the difference between a knitting needle and a crochet hook? Non-knitters can still participate by making a financial contribution online at or by texting HAT to 41444.

Later this month, in connection with Valentine's Day, all those little hats will be distributed to newborns in the Seattle and South Sound areas. The hats are intended to do more than merely warm little heads. Packaged with brochures about heart health and congenital heart defects, the hats are a unique way to inform and encourage parents to raise their precious little bundles of joy to have heart-healthy lifestyles.

Jointly sponsored by the AHA and The Children's Heart Foundation, the national Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign was started in Chicago in 2014. It now has more than 40 chapters nationwide, and more chapters are starting all the time -- including two currently in the state of Washington.

After the hats are knitted, they are shipped off to campaign headquarters, where they are carefully laundered and then packaged with instructional materials from the AHA. The packages are then sent to participating local hospitals to be distributed to new parents and their babies.

This year's hats will be going to some lucky newborns in Washington hospitals including St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma; St. Francis Hospital, Federal Way; St. Elizabeth Hospital, Enumclaw; Highline Medical Center, Burien; Harrison Medical Center, Bremerton; Valley Medical Center, Renton; Center For Birth, Seattle; and Overlake Hospital, Bellevue.

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