By Laurie Gonyea
As knitters, most of us know the warmth and support a knitting group can bring. Some of us use our groups as therapy, while for others it is merely a social encounter. Either way, needles and yarn are the common denominators.
I was recently introduced to a knitting group that has formed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The group is called, Wounded Warrior Knitting Wednesdays. The name is a little misleading because it was formed not for wounded warriors, but their families. I didn’t know this, but when a wounded soldier is brought to the facility in Bethesda, Md., their family joins them for their stay, living in one of the six Fisher Houses (similar to a Ronald McDonald house) or out-patient apartments. They put their lives on hold and leave everything familiar behind.
“So often these families come here, not knowing when they will return home,” says Kathleen Marra, the founder and organizer of the group. “We wanted to create a safe, calm place for them, and knitting is the perfect way for them to ‘escape’ from the confines of the hospital, even if it is only for an hour or so.”
The group is based on the “drop-in” format and the day I visited, sisters Kaitlyn (11 years) and Abbigail (10 years) from Roanoke, Va., stopped by. Their father is a patient at the hospital and the girls have been living “on-campus” at the hospital since last December. They have both learned to knit thanks to the group and each is working on a scarf. The girls’ mother, Kristin, loves having the group available for them. Not only have they learned a new skill, but also have a nurturing place to go for a couple of hours a week.
The group isn’t just for new knitters, either. One volunteer told the story of the mother of a soldier who is currently undergoing surgeries. She’s a knitter, but had left home so quickly to come to the hospital that she didn’t think to bring knitting with her. She had heard about the group and was thrilled when they were able to supply her with a new pattern, yarn and needles. I can only image the comfort she felt when she was finally able to sit down and experience the rhythmic, calming effect that two sticks and yarn can have.
I love the concept of the knitting group with a “cause”—therapy, instruction, camaraderie—all for free. With this group, however, we know the participants have more than paid their dues.
If you would like to find out more about Wounded Warriors Knitting Wednesday, please visit their group page on Ravelry.
Laurie Gonyea is a regular contributor to this blog, and Creative Knitting magazine. She is also the founder and owner of Knit Outta The Box. For more information about Laurie and her amazing collection of knitting patterns and yarn, visit: knitouttathebox.com