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How to Give Knitted Hugs to Worried Moms with Sick Children

Knit or crochet a shrug for the Stay Strong Tote Foundation, and you can give a “hug” to concerned moms at Ronald McDonald Houses nationwide

Mary Langdon had been delivering donations to her local Ronald McDonald House for years. (Unfamiliar with Ronald McDonald Houses? I’ll explain shortly.) One day, she saw something that haunted her. I’ll let Mary pick it up from here.

“During one visit, a cutie named Ellie stood out. She looked so carefree as she skipped through the 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.”

Mary added, “the thought of not doing anything felt more wrong than mistakes made along the way.”*

So what did Mary do?

*(from Mary’s blog post on the Stay Strong Tote Foundation website

The Beginnings of the Stay Strong Tote Foundation

Originally, Mary sold handwoven shawls to raise money to support her local Ronald McDonald (RMD) House. The shop selling those shawls closed, and she decided to “shift my focus,” as she put it.

Ronald McDonald Houses
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!”

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About Ronald McDonald Houses

Let me pause here to explain more fully the idea behind Ronald McDonald Houses. These are houses placed all over the United States — and even around the world — for the families of children who need medical treatment.

Unfortunately, sometimes children become so ill that in order to receive the treatment they need, they must travel far from home. Ronald McDonald Houses give families a place to stay without having to spend a lot of money for lodging, meals, and so on. Most importantly, they offer families the chance to stay together during a difficult time.

Ronald McDonald Houses are part of Ronald McDonald House Charities. They are a nonprofit organization, which means they depend a lot on donations. That, of course, is how Mary got involved in the first place.

How the Stay Strong Tote Foundation Helps Moms with Sick Children

In June 2016, Mary and her friends began to create Stay Strong Totes. Each tote contained a journal with a pen, hand cream and hand sanitizer, lip balm, tissues, nail file, a coloring book of postcards with colored pencils and a sharpener, and a pair of soft socks infused with aloe butter. It also contained a handmade shawl — knitted, crocheted, or woven. Basically, these totes are designed to make a stressed mom smile.

Ronald McDonald Houses
Photo: Mary Langdon

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

(They do accept shawls still, if you can’t quite get the hang of shrugs.)

Mary says, “My goal is to get enough support to tackle the third and last RMD House in NJ – and have a Stay Strong Tote ready and waiting for every mom who enters.

“There are over 150 RMD Houses nationwide. Most have waitlists at all times. That’s a lot of very worried moms. My dream is to generate enough support to have knitters and crocheters donating shrugs for all of these moms in all of our United States RMD Houses.”

Currently, Stay Strong Tote Foundation serves RMD Houses in New Jersey; Rhode Island; Syracuse, NY; Seattle, WA; Grand Rapids, MI; Denver, CO; and Delaware.

Would you like to take part in this worthwhile mission? Read on!

How You Can Help the Stay Strong Tote Foundation

Ronald McDonald Houses
Shrug in progress
Photo: Mary Langdon

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!

The Stay Strong Tote Foundation website has downloadable PDF patterns for both a knit or a crochet shrug. This page also has downloadable PDFs that you can print on cardstock to send along with your shrug.

You can also help by knitting bears. Bear Buddies is the newest addition to the Stay Strong Tote. The Foundation has their own pattern for the bear, for which they ask a $5 donation. Alternately, you can purchase a complete bear-making kit for $25, which will fund the complete cost of putting together a tote. Click here to order a pattern or a kit.

Ronald McDonald Houses
Bear Buddies
Photo: Mary Langdon

The Foundation always appreciates financial donations as well as purchases from their Amazon wishlist (which provides the other items in the tote). You can find links to their Paypal and Amazon wishlist on this page.

Finally, if you love the mission of the Stay Strong Tote Foundation mission and want to establish this in your own state, you can become a coordinator! Read here to find out how you can do that.

If you have any further questions, you may want to check out their FAQ blog post here.

Donating to the Stay Strong Tote Foundation is such 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?

Want more ways to knit for charity locally? Check out Knitting for Charity in Your Own Backyard.

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