How to Offer Support to Worried Moms with Sick Children through Knitted Hugs

Here’s a tangible way to provide comfort to a tired, worried mother with a sick child: support Hugs Through Shrugs by knitting shrugs, purchasing a shrug kit, and more

Mary Langdon had been delivering donations to local charities for years. One day, she caught sight of a scene between a sick child and her mother that haunted her:

“A cutie named Ellie stood out. She looked so carefree as she skipped through the [Ronald McDonald] House. You’d never know she was ill, if her little bald head didn’t give away her secret.

“Her mom slowly followed behind, wrapped tightly in a sweater – even though it was July. She looked so tired. I just wanted to give her a hug. And tell her… what? What could I possibly say to this brave woman?

“Ellie’s dad and brothers had recently visited but needed to go back home – halfway across the country – where work and school waited. So Ellie and her mom spent their days here in New Jersey battling together.

“I just couldn’t stop thinking about them.”

(from Mary’s blog post on the Stay Strong Tote Foundation website, now discontinued)


So what did Mary do?

Mary shares the story of the beginnings of the Stay Strong Tote Foundation, now Hugs Through Shrugs

The Beginnings of the Stay Strong Tote Foundation

Originally, Mary sold handwoven shawls to raise money to support her local Ronald McDonald (RMD) House. Ronald McDonald Houses are places all over the country where sick children and their families who must travel for their treatments can stay.

The shop selling those shawls closed, and she decided to “shift my focus,” as she put it.

Hugs through Shrugs
Photo: Mary Langdon

“I decided to tap into the generosity of the knit and crochet community to see if I could get some volunteers to help me create care packages to welcome the moms as they begin their stay. I threw out the idea on Facebook and got the attention of a few ladies who wanted to knit/crochet for their local RMD House.

“And so it began!”

Sharpening the Focus: from Stay Strong Tote Foundation to Hugs Through Shrugs

In 2020, COVID-19 helped Mary and her organization to sharpen their focus. As she puts it in the video above, “Sheltering in place was not an option for mothers battling pediatric cancer. You can’t put cancer treatments on hold.”

They rebranded the organization, moving from “Stay Strong Tote Foundation” to “Hugs through Shrugs.” The organization now encourages knitted, crocheted, and Tunisian crocheted shrugs that are delivered to mothers of children fighting pediatric cancer.

They also developed a shop, offering both shawls and hand-painted yarn, to help support the costs of donating shrugs to moms.

They sell two weights of yarn:

  • The gorgeous Gilded Age are fingering weight yarn packs, with one a merino wool laced with metallic thread, and the other a blend of baby alpaca, merino wool, and cotton.
  • The lovely Postcards are DK weight yarn packs, with one a merino wool / mulberry silk blend, the other a blend of baby alpaca and acrylic.
Ronald McDonald Houses
Photo: Mary Langdon

How You Can Help Hugs Through Shrugs

First, of course, you can knit shrugs. No need to worry that a shrug is beyond your knitting capabilities — shrugs are just rectangles with ties to create sleeves. Super simple!

Hugs through Shrugs requests shrugs in preference over shawls. The reason: they comfort like shawls, but they stay on effortlessly — which busy moms appreciate. Shrugs are essential to the mission. They are the hugs that we all wish we could give a mom worried about her ill child.

You can find the guidelines for these knitted or crocheted shrugs on this page. (You’ll need to scroll down a bit to find the guidelines.) Hugs through Shrugs offers a super-simple pattern that you can download from their website on this same page; just scroll down about half-way until you see the heading that says “Shrug Hug Pattern.” You’ll see a button right below it that says “Download PDF.” Click that button, and you’ll download the pattern instantly!

Ronald McDonald Houses
Shrug in progress
Photo: Mary Langdon

Hugs through Shrugs requests that all makers attach a note to the shrug before sending. You can find downloadable PDFs to print onto cardstock and write on the back of on this page.

If you’d like to add a sweet little gift for the children themselves, you can also knit little Courage Capes for the small teddy bears that Hugs through Shrugs donates to Hasbro Children’s Hospital patients.

Knitting instructions for Courage Capes are located on the second page of the Shrug Hug PDF. You can find also find Tunisian crochet instructions under the heading “Support a child by making a Courage Cape for a Bear Buddy” on this page.

As mentioned earlier, you can also support Hugs through Shrugs by purchasing yarn and/or shawls from their shop. You can take a look at all their products here.

Any questions? You can reach out to Hugs through Shrugs via their Contact Us page.

Offering your knitted shrug to Hugs through Shrugs is an amazing way to make a difference in the lives of worried mothers. Wouldn’t you love to let them know that they’re not alone?

Hugs Through Shrugs

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