'Hats for Hope' founder gives back in memory of her daughter

Elizabeth Stewart of Pender County and her supporters delivered more than 3,300 hats, blankets, socks, scarves and other items for cancer patients at the N.C. Cancer Hospital, UNC Lineberger's clinical home, on Nov. 9 as part of Hats for Hope, the Annual Charli’ Ramsey Hat Drive.

'Hats for Hope' founder gives back in memory of her daughter click to enlarge Elizabeth Stewart helped three-year-old Mary Harper Edsall pick a hat. Stewart and a team of volunteers delivered new hats and other items to patients in the N.C. Cancer Hospital pediatric clinic as well as to cancer patients in other clinics.
'Hats for Hope' founder gives back in memory of her daughter click to enlarge Kelly Kivette, LRT/CTRS, a senior recreational therapist at the N.C. Cancer Hospital, greets Elizabeth Stewart after she arrives with donated items through Hats for Hope, the Annual Charli’ Ramsey Hat Drive.

Media Contact: Laura Oleniacz, 919-445-4219, laura_oleniacz@med.unc.edu

Three-year-old Mary Harper Edsall has a “huge collection” of hats, her mom Coley Edsall reports. Each time Mary Harper comes to the N.C. Cancer Hospital, UNC Lineberger’s clinical home, she gets a new one.

“She doesn’t wear them because she wants to hide anything – she (likes to) play with them,” Coley said in the pediatric clinic’s busy playroom. “It helps that she’s so positive. This is just a moment. This isn’t what she’s become.”

Mary Harper was diagnosed with kidney cancer in August. She has undergone surgery and radiation treatment, and is receiving chemotherapy. She has remained positive through it all, Coley said, adding that the outpouring of donations and support the family have received helped her daughter.

“When people drop off gifts, it means so much,” she said.

Mary Harper tried on a new pink hat on Nov. 9 that was a gift from Hats for Hope, the Annual Charli’ Ramsey Hat Drive. The hat was one of more than 3,300 items delivered by Elizabeth Stewart, who founded the drive in memory of her daughter, and her supporters. Charli’ Ramsey was treated for leukemia at the N.C. Cancer Hospital. She died in 2001 at the age of 9.

“Sixteen years is a long time, but you deal with it every day,” Stewart said. “It’s always nice to come here and give back to patients.”

Stewart, who lives in eastern North Carolina, and a group of family, friends and supporters presented hats, scarves, blankets and pillows to patients at the hospital, including those in the bone marrow transplant unit and the pediatric clinic.

For Glenn Baker of High Point, Stewart delivered a new, bright red blanket, and for his wife, Jenny, a shawl.

Glenn was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome. He was treated with chemotherapy, and on Halloween, he received a bone marrow transplant. Jenny said he is doing well, and she expects they will be able to return home when his blood counts normalize.

After exchanging sports team jokes, Stewart told Glenn to go to a room in the unit where hats, scarves and blankets were piled high to “enjoy some retail therapy.”

“We’ll be thinking about you – keeping you in our thoughts and prayers,” she said.

Stewart gave Patsy Murchison a scarf and a blanket. Patsy, who is from Sanford, received a transplant as part of her treatment for lymphoma. Tears came to Patsy’s eyes as she explained her daughter was her donor. All of her children volunteered to be her donor including her son, Frederick Murchison, who was with Patsy at the time of Stewart’s visit.

“I have a great family and a great support system,” Murchison said.

Speaking to Frederick, Stewart highlighted the importance of caregivers.

“You’re just as important as any medical professional,” she said, giving him a blanket as well.

Kelly Kivette, LRT/CTRS, senior recreational therapist in the bone marrow transplant unit, helped to facilitate the donations. She said that while the unit does receive other donated items, the Hats for Hope drive is unique in terms of the quantity of donated items involved.  She was working on the unit when Stewart’s daughter was a patient, and she said it’s nice to see her family honor her memory in this way.

“I know how much it means to Elizabeth,” Kivette said. “I can see it in her eyes when she’s giving out the hats and blankets, and I see how much it means to the patients, too.”