Knitting for Cancer is helping cancer patients with wearable comfort and care of hand-knit hats and blankets

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Knitting for Cancer is a non-profit organization that creates soft, comfy hats for cancer patients. Whether becoming a contributing knitter or simply donating supplies, you can be a part of its mission.

By Mary Malik

It’s a helpless feeling when a loved one is suffering. Jennifer Bystricky knows that feeling very well. In 2016, Jennifer’s mother passed away after a long battle with cancer. As her caregiver, Jennifer saw what a toll the effects of chemotherapy took on her mom, and how uncomfortable the drug infusion process can be for patients.

“Chemotherapy rooms are kept extremely cold to slow the spread of germs,” says Jennifer. “It’s difficult for patients to keep warm during their treatment. And the drugs themselves often cause chills. My mom was always cold, even at home.”

Wanting to provide comfort for her mom, Jennifer knitted her a hat with the softest yarn she could find.

“She was very sensitive to fabric and we couldn’t find anything she could tolerate against her skin,” says Jennifer. “It was a wonderful feeling knowing I was doing something to comfort her.”

Knitting for Cancer accepts donations of all knitting supplies, including yarns, needles and looms, and provides these items free to all volunteer knitters

After losing her mother and searching for a way to ease her grief, knitting was a coping mechanism that eased Jennifer’s pain. She soon realized she was meant to help cancer patients.

“I was donating items to my church but wanted to have a broader impact,” says Jennifer. “I started Knitting for Cancer as a non-profit, 501 C3 organization. We are 100 percent non-profit. No one is making money. We’re just helping people who need it.”

Knitting for Cancer accepts donations of all knitting supplies, including yarns, needles and looms, and provides these items free to all volunteer knitters. Since March 2019, Jennifer has provided over 3,000 cancer patients with hand-knit hats and blankets, and she hasn’t done it alone.

“I needed help to produce the volume of hats and blankets to make an impact,” says Jennifer. “I began teaching a class in Brunswick as one way to get donations, and I have three other sources of volunteer knitters donating their time and talents to this very worthy cause.”

Founder Jennifer Bystricky

Jennifer’s group of volunteers comes from some sources that may surprise you.

“I started knitting classes in a senior living center, a nursing home and a prison,” says Jennifer. “The prison class sounds unusual, but these men are some of my best producers. Something I never really anticipated was the effect the classes have had on the volunteers. Knitting for Cancer is helping more people than just the cancer patients. Our volunteers are giving back to the community in ways they never could before this.”

Jennifer has seen how all of her volunteers have changed after being a part of Knitting for Cancer.

“It has given all of them a new purpose,” says Jennifer. “My senior volunteers love coming to class and forming new friendships. Some can’t even knit due to arthritis in their hands, but they come for the community feeling. And the prisoners love helping others with no judgements. The class is a happy room for them and I feel lucky to be a part of it.”

Knitting for Cancer has helped so many cancer patients in a very short time, and helped Jennifer through a very difficult period in her life.

“Now when I’m knitting, I think of my mother and I know she’s proud of me,” says Jennifer. “She pushed me toward this. I know that. I’m trying to help as many cancer patients as I can. It’s healing for me, as well.”

For more information on how to donate or volunteer for Knitting for Cancer, check the website, the Facebook page, or email Jennifer at