February is American Heart Month and all around the Valley, hospitals and organizations are spreading awareness about heart health and heart diseases. Some are offering free screenings and informational events. Others, such as the American Heart Association (AHA), are spreading awareness a different way: by knitting hats for newborn babies. 

The Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign was started in Chicago in 2014 in connection with the Children’s Heart Foundation, an organization that focuses on children with congenital heart disease, the most common birth defect in the country. That year, just 300 hats were made and distributed to hospitals in the city. The program grew quickly, and in 2018, more than 200,000 hats were distributed to hospitals across 40 states.

“I had knitted scarves for every person I knew. I needed a new project, so one day I got online and did some research and found the Little Hats, Big Hearts page and thought it would be nice to knit for a good cause,” said Debi Wardlaw, who has donated her hats for the past two years.

The AHA website states that the red hats “symbolize our shared mission of heart-healthy lives for everyone. The effort also raises awareness of congenital heart defects, and what we can all do to help prevent them.” 

Volunteers are given a pattern to either crochet or knit red hats for new babies who are born in February, but donations are taken throughout the year. Although volunteers do not give the hats out personally, it still resonates as a heartwarming act.

“After last year, I got a picture of a family with their baby wearing one of the hats I knitted. So that was really something – you know when you’re helping people and to see it was kind of cool,” Wardlaw said. 

At the start of the year, more than 3,000 hats had been donated to the American Heart Association, with 370 of those hats coming from the Buddha’s Light International Association – Phoenix Chapter in Arcadia. 

Some of the participating hospitals include: Maricopa Integrated Health Systems, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Honor Health Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center, Banner Desert Medical Center, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Abrazo Scottsdale Campus. 

February 1 is also National Wear Red Day; make sure to show your support for the AHA. For more: heart.org or childrensheartfoundation.org.