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The nurses at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital are giving out treats this Halloween — all in the form of tiny handmade hats that are stitched with love.
At this Tampa, Florida, hospital, the nurses in the labor and delivery ward have a tradition: they knit every baby a handmade hat. They incorporate different designs and themes around the holidays.
“There are pumpkins, there’s a candy corn — we have a ghost, a Frankenstein, acorns and a little bat,” nurse Becky Allen told TODAY. “They’re adorable and we love doing it for our patients and they love it, too.”
The tradition started with Paula MacDonald, a former nurse who passed away at age 55. She had always loved giving the newborn babies knitted hats, and soon other nurses wanted to help as well. That’s when MacDonald started teaching other nurses on the staff how to knit — and the Paula Project was born.
“It’s brought us as a unit a whole lot closer,” nurse Pam Eaton told TODAY. “We enjoy getting together and talking about the hats we’re planning on making, and we talk about Paula and how happy she would be to see all these wonderful hats.”
More than 50 nurses in the labor and delivery department currently make the hats, but it has spread into the community as well. Other departments within the hospital, as well as sister hospitals and members of the community, have contributed hats. There’s also Paula’s mother, who continues to send a giant bag of hats to the department once every few months.
And the patients? They love it.
“One of the patients said that her grandmother used to knit and had passed away,” said Eaton. “Her grandmother wouldn’t be able to make one, but when she was presented with ours it just had so much meaning to her.”
The department delivers 20 to 30 babies per day, and they all leave with a special gift from this sweet staff.
“Sometimes they cry — we sometimes make a hat especially for patients based on what they like,” said Eaton. “It’s that sentimental value of having something homemade that they can have for their baby to look back on.”