Meet Jeanie Shaffer, the 90-Year-Old Who Has Knit 11,000 Hats for Newborn Babies at UPMC Western Maryland
"I want to live to be 100. I turned 90 in February. As long as I can make them, I want to keep making them."
Knitting hats is a labor of love. Now imagine knitting some 11,000 hats.
Such is the case for 90-year-old Jeanie Shaffer, who has knit more than 11,000 hats for newborns delivered at UPMC Western Maryland in Cumberland, Maryland, over the last 15+ years. The knitting whiz volunteers hours of her time almost every night to make the hats, which are placed on newborns heads to keep them warm seconds after their birth (newborn babies have a tough time regulating their body temperature, hence the hats being key).
In celebration of Shaffer's tireless efforts, UPMC Western Maryland recently asked parents to send in a photo of their newborn sporting their knitted hat at birth (in addition to Shaffer, several other volunteers knit hats for the hospital). The hospital team received more than 1,000 adorable photos, which they then whittled down to around 100 and compiled them into an album which they presented to Shaffer.
"I didn't realize making hats would go this far. I appreciate it a whole lot," Shaffer said to UPMC Western Maryland in an interview upon receiving her scrapbook. "It makes me feel proud and wonderful that I can do this to give the babies a warm head to start life," she added. The spirited nonagenarian has no plans to slow down on the knitting front. "I want to live to be 100. I turned 90 in February. As long as I can make them, I want to keep making them," she said.
Parents, too, are deeply moved by Shaffer's gift to newborns. "Once they put the little hat on [our son], it calmed him down a little bit. I guess it was like a comfort snuggled up around him," parents Amyia Smith and Penni Lewis-Smith told the hospital. "We are going to make the hat part of a scrapbook, so we never lose it and always have it, and he can have it when he gets bigger."
Keep up the great work, Jeanie. We hope these babies learn the story of the amazing volunteer who knitted so many hats for UPMC Western Maryland one day and are inspired to pay a good gesture forward to the hospital ward that birthed them.