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Worry dolls a worldwide blessing

Charity: Knitting seniors putting smiles on children’s faces
Helen Bolkart, above, and Laura Hayward have knitted several worry dolls to donate to children internationally.

Two seniors with a love for knitting are making Christmas magical for children locally and internationally this year.

Helen Bolkart and Laura Hayward spent the past few months knitting worry dolls for the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child program and the Magic of Christmas initiative.

Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes are filled with toys, hygiene items, clothing and gifts for children in impoverished parts of the world while Magic of Christmas involves volunteers travelling in a bus throughout Okotoks, Black Diamond, Turner Valley and High River delivering gifts and holiday spirit to individuals and families facing financial or emotional struggles.

The pattern for the worry dolls came out of storage in Bolkart’s home in Okotoks when she learned Hayward, of Turner Valley, was packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child with members of the Valley Neighbours Club in Turner Valley.

“I was looking for something in my file and I came across this pattern,” said Bolkart. “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to give this to Laura. She’s 87 and she likes knitting. Maybe she could make a few of them and put them in the boxes.’”

The 85-year-old Okotokian initially got the pattern in the 1980s when the ladies group in a church she was part of decided to make worry dolls for the Calgary Police Service.

“The church ladies gave us a pattern and we made it for the police to give to children,” she said. “A police woman came and she was telling us when parents have problems and they have to take the children away the little ones love these worry dolls because they’re soft and small. They just love them for the security. They hold on to them and squeeze.”

Bolkart knitted one of the dolls for Foothills war hero and former rancher Winston Parker, in celebration of his 100th birthday earlier this year, and said he was “enthralled with it.”

In her spare time, Bolkart knitted about 25 worry dolls to give away this year.

“It’s just something to do and if anything comes up, maybe the hospital or whatever, any charities I can see that’s worthwhile to give to, then I give it to,” she said. “It’s just a hobby, that’s all.”

Knitting the worry dolls is a perfect pastime for Hayward, who’s knitted her fair share of Afghans and sweaters over the years.

“I make mitts for the native children at Longview School and knit toques and mitts for the Samaritan’s Purse,” said Hayward. “You run out of Afghans and sweaters so you do something a little different.”

When Bolkart introduced the worry doll pattern to Hayward, she was ecstatic with the idea behind the project.

“You’re supposed to make a doll and a bag,” Hayward said. “The idea is the kid will talk to the doll, put it in the bag and close the bag and what’s told stays in the bag.”

Hayward creates the dolls so each one is unique.

“There are no two alike,” she said. “Sometimes I put a dress on them, sometimes it’s overalls, sometimes it’s shorts.”

Hayward said knitting the dolls keeps her busy.

“Whenever I’m sitting and my hands are free I’m knitting,” she said. “I just do it when I’m sitting around watching TV or when I go to my hair dressers or whenever.”

This year, Hayward donated 25 worry dolls to Magic of Christmas and another 20 to the Samaritan’s Purse and 50 sets of toques and mitts.

“Most of the countries are so poor that whatever comes is a blessing,” she said. “I’ve started on next year’s. I’m 87 and I’ve probably been knitting since I was about 17.”