Wayne Township seniors help cancer patients

WAYNE TWP, Ill. (WLS) -- With bright colors and creative stitching, a group of Wayne Township women have been lifting cancer patients' spirits.

These seniors, known as the Happy Hatters, knit and crochet hats each week to spread joy.

"They need the courage to go out and be out and be out about with friends and socializing," explained project co-creator Karen Mahrenholz, who herself was twice diagnosed with cancer.

"It's always a worry in the back of your mind. So you just have to continue to keep a very positive attitude," she added.

For Mahrenholz, such inspiration came from a purple hat gifted by the American Cancer Society, which motivated her throughout treatment. Now she supports others the same way. The Happy Hatter meet on Fridays to work on hats, tying a heartfelt note to each one when finished.

"May this hat make you feel beautiful, lift your spirits and give you confidence. Wear it knowing you are surrounded by love. You are stronger than you know," read Mahrenholz off the card, becoming emotional.

Since the project's April 2013 start, it has brought more than 15 women together, working as a team.

"When I talked to Karen and she told me how much it meant to her I decided that I had time, I can do that," recalled one of the original group members, Joan Mruk.

"It just makes your heart feel good because other people can benefit from it," added co-creator Elaine Wierdak.

To date, the group has crafted nearly 6,000 Happy Hats; That's 6,000 cancer patients given renewed hope.

Mahrenholz sometimes receives thank you notes from grateful recipients.

"The hats made me smile and feel cared about even by people who don't know me," she read from one, continuing, " wow, what a good feeling."

That's the feeling of a warm embrace that will not fade, making us Chicago Proud!
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