Former inmate crochets a better future, making caps for cancer patients

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Wendy Oren was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in July. The Wisconsin woman wears a chemo cap instead of a wig. Kurt Stapleton, a former inmate, made hers for her.

Wendy Oren was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in July. She began chemotherapy and lost her hair. The Wisconsin woman wears a chemo cap instead of a wig.

"It's more comfy, more cozy than the wigs they give you," Oren told WISC

Kurt Stapleton crochets the caps.

"What I do is I crochet hats for people who are going through chemotherapy," he said.

Stapleton said there's a long story about how he got started.

"It makes me feel really good," he said.

Every stitch comes with a reminder of what got Stapleton here in the first place.

"I started out crocheting in prison. I was incarcerated for three years. Three and a half years. Two counts of armed robbery. I was addicted to painkillers. I lost my job and I just hit rock bottom and decided to steal pills from a pharmacy," Stapleton said.

He said crocheting in prison gave him purpose, at a time when he felt he was hanging on by a thread. When Stapleton got out, he needed to keep his hands busy.

"I have changed my life and have become a better person. I now have a 3-year-old son, who I am trying to lead by example," Stapleton said.

It's an example that Stapleton said his own father set for him.

"In 2006, my father passed away from cancer. This is kind of my way of helping him, but helping others, because I wasn't able to do anything for him," Stapleton said.

It takes Stapleton about an hour and a half to make a hat. He's taken his craft even further, making stuffed animals, blankets and pillows.

"That is one of the greatest gifts he gave me too, because I have to have so many shots a day in my stomach," Oren said. "I'm not a fan of those, so I grab onto that ribbon when my husband gives me those shots and I squeeze it as hard as I can."

Stapleton and Oren haven't met, but their stories are connected by loop and thread.

"Kurt is definitely doing something that is very, very, very powerful," Oren said.

Stapleton is using his hobby to show the world how he took something bad and stitched it into something beautiful.

"I wish I could go back and tell the people that I've truly hurt that I'm sorry for what I've done," he said. "But I also wish they could see me and see what I'm doing with my life."
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societycancercancer capprisoninmatesu.s. & worldcommunity serviceWisconsin