Little Hats, Big Hearts fills Grand Rapids hospitals with red hats

<p>Courtesy / Little Hats, Big Hearts</p>

Courtesy / Little Hats, Big Hearts

Rachel Matuszewski

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By February, hospitals will be filled with over 4,000 knit red hats for Michigan’s youngest residents. This is the final step in the American Heart Association’s year round effort with the Children’s Heart Foundation to raise awareness for heart disease and congenital heart defects. 

“(February) is American Heart Month and red is the color of the American Heart Association,” said American Heart Association Communications Director Cindy Bouma. “We’re tying those two things together. We’re doing it as an outreach for those who have congenital issues and for those who healthy hearts.”

The Little Hats, Big Hearts project began in Chicago in 2014 as an outreach opportunity for all children born during the month of February. Michigan will be celebrating its fourth year participating, joining the Chicago office a year after the project was established. 

But the heart of the project lies in the volunteers, who knit and crochet hats year-round to be sent to their offices in November. From there, more volunteers tend to the washing of the hats, individually packaging them, attaching health information and repackaging for hospitals.

“It’s a volunteer-intensive program and there is no charge to the hospital,” Bouma said. “The reason it works is because so many people are willing to donate either their time or their talent for it.”

The project not only raises awareness for heart illnesses but also ways of prevention. Inside each red hat is a card informing parents of seven ways to keep their kids healthy. They include no smoking or tobacco use and not to smoke around kids. Additionally, it notes that kids need 60 minutes of exercise daily and adults need 30 minutes five days a week. 

They also provide the importance of eating a fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains while watching intake of sodium and sugar. It suggests maintaining a healthy weight, as too much fat increases a risk of heart disease. They advise keeping your blood pressure at 120/80 mmHg by reducing sodium intake and exercising. 

By increasing whole grains, exercising and reducing trans and saturated fats, patients can keep their cholesterol healthy. Since high blood sugar leads to diabetes, it also suggests keeping blood sugar healthy by watching your sugar intake. 

“We’re proud to be part of this program as it brings together the community to rally around those who are affected by Congenital Heart Disease,” said Founder of the Children’s Heart Foundation Betsy Peterson.

Bouma would like to thank those who have dedicated their time to spreading awareness for heart disease and congenital heart defects, especially the people who they don’t see come into the office but know are working for their cause.