Eighth year of 'Hats for Hope' provides support, encouragement

Volunteers collected more than 3,300 items through word of mouth, churches, social media and other organizations in eastern North Carolina for Hats for Hope, the Annual Charli’ Ramsey Hat Drive, and delivered them to adult and pediatric patients at UNC Hospitals.

Eighth year of 'Hats for Hope' provides support, encouragement click to enlarge Kelly Kivette (right), senior recreational therapist at UNC Hospitals, helps to unload hats, scarves and blankets for delivery to patients in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.
Eighth year of 'Hats for Hope' provides support, encouragement click to enlarge Elizabeth Stewart delivers items to David Sellers and his wife, Sue Sellers.

To honor the memory of her daughter, Elizabeth Stewart and supporters delivered new or newly made hats, blankets and other items to adult and pediatric patients at UNC Hospitals on Thursday in the eighth year of an annual charity hat drive.

 Stewart said she had collected more than 3,300 items from supporters through word of mouth, churches, social media and other organizations in eastern North Carolina for Hats for Hope, the Annual Charli’ Ramsey Hat Drive. Stewart, who lives in Pender County, launched the drive in 2009 to honor her daughter Charli’, who was treated at the N.C. Cancer Hospital for leukemia. Charli’ died at the age of 9 in 2001. Elizabeth started the drive because she wanted to do something to help children and families who are experiencing what she and her daughter went through.

“It’s kind of emotional at times, but it’s very rewarding,” Stewart said. “I felt that it’s something that Charli’ would be pleased with, had she not passed away. She would have been involved in something like this, and I think it’s an honor and a privilege that UNC lets me do this.”

Stewart said she often saw children selecting items from a hat closet when her daughter was a patient, and she wanted to give the kind of joy she saw in their faces to others.

“I just remember that when we saw the kids go to that closet, they would pull out items that they wanted — it was items galore — and it was a special treat for them,” she said. “We have found that delivering items ourselves throughout the years that it just puts a smile on their faces.”

Stewart delivered items on Nov. 8 to patients in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, including to David Sellers, 61, of Fayetteville. Sellers was recovering from a transplant that he received as treatment for myelofibrosis, a type of blood cancer.

Sellers, who was looking forward to his discharge from the hospital in a few days, said his faith in God, the staff in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, and his dedication to staying active have helped him through his journey with cancer. Through a program called Healthy Heels, Sellers completed two full marathons, at 26.2 miles each, by walking laps around the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. One marathon is 367 laps around the unit floor.

“Even on his worst days, he was out there,” his wife, Sue Sellers, said.

Sellers said he must stay close to Chapel Hill so doctors can continue to monitor his blood counts for another 100 days. While she was in the unit, Stewart delivered a blanket to Sellers, and a prayer shawl to Sue. The Sellers praised the hat drive as a way honor Stewart’s daughter’s memory.

“Your ministry is wonderful,” Sue said.

Stewart also delivered a hat and scarf to 23-year-old Sydney Lysinger, a student at Appalachian State University. Lysinger was in treatment for recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma, and had completed a transplant. While she said she has a great support system between her mom, family and boyfriend, she appreciated others who reached out to her, and to her family members.

“It’s nice to see support everywhere,” she said.

Lysinger’s mother, Lisa, said it was moving to see another parent who had a child with cancer giving back.

“It means more than you can imagine,” she said.