Halley with some of the hats she has made.

If you are looking for something to keep you busy until the cold weather breaks and like to knit or crochet, use your skills for a good cause with The Little Red Hat Project, a local initiative collecting red hats for newborns in an effort to raise awareness of heart disease and congenital defects.

“I’ve always wanted to do something special in February to mark Heart Month,” said organizer Kaitlynn Halley, who is no stranger to the cause. Halley was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect only a couple of days after she was born and has lived with it all her life.

“It was at Holzer, Dr. Sullivan, he was the one who saved my life,” said Halley about her diagnosis. “He knew there was something wrong and he actually stayed after his shift was supposed to be over. He stayed with me and made sure I got to Children’s Hospital.”

While Halley’s love for looming and her drive to promote awareness of CHD and overall heart health originally led her to the American Heart Association’s Little Hats, Big Hearts ™ project, she ultimately decided she wanted her efforts to stay local and benefit the hospital where it all started for her. With that in mind, she launched a local initiative, using the other as inspiration. She reached out to Holzer Health System, who jumped on board. Farmers Bank in Gallipolis also joined in to serve as a drop off location, as well as the Gallia County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The red knitted or crocheted hats will be given to newborns at Holzer Health System in the month of February.

“I hope the parents see the hats and they make the decision to raise their children to have a heart-healthy life, to exercise and to eat right and to take care of themselves,” said Halley. “Because, you can be born without a heart defect, but your heart health is just as important down the line.”

Speaking about CHD specifically, Halley said the statistic used is 1 in 100 babies will be affected.

“And no two defects are the same. There are a lot of similarities of course, but they’re always a special case,” said Halley.

For Halley, her case meant multiple surgeries and continued monitoring of her heart.

“It doesn’t end with just being a baby. It is a life commitment to heart health. I think that’s the biggest thing, is to take care of your heart,” said Halley.

With her condition, Halley said she was able to, with a few restrictions, have a normal childhood and remain active, though she has experienced more issues in adulthood.

“But that’s my personal case and everyone has a different story,” said Halley. “And the stories need to be heard for people to have awareness because there is no cure. There is only treatment and monitoring for congenital heart defects.”

The red hats may be any shade of red and may come in varying sizes because no two babies are the same. For anyone looking for a particular pattern visit the American Heart Association website for recommended newborn patterns for knitting and crochet. Yarn should be red, cotton or acrylic, medium to heavy weight and machine washable and dryable. They also ask that the hats be simple with no buttons or bows because they may be dangerous to little ones. Hats should be dropped off at either Farmers Bank in Gallipolis or the Gallia County Convention and Visitors Bureau by January 29th.

For those who would like to help but cannot knit or crochet, they are accepting yarn donations, which will be given to volunteer knitters to create hats. Any questions may be directed to Kaitlynn Halley at the GCCVB 740-446-6882 or kaitlynnhalley@visitgallia.com