In an effort to spread awareness about normal infant crying, some Marion County residents are participating in a nationwide campaign by knitting or crocheting purple baby caps that will be distributed to parents of newborns.
“Click for Babies: Period of Purple Crying Caps,” is a grassroots effort to remind parents about the dangers of shaken baby syndrome, a form of child abuse affecting infants younger than 1 year old, according to Anne Auld, Kansas Children’s Service League, Wichita.
Penni Funk, Parkside Homes life enrichment coordinator, and Betty Norman, a Parkside resident, organized the effort.
Norman said she cannot knit or crochet, but she thought she could be helpful by talking about her experiences. Her granddaughter, Kali Hamilton, works at the KCSL and told her about the purple-cap project.
When the campaign started in 2011, Norman said the KCSL was asking for 3,000 caps and got more than 6,000 for every hospital in Kansas that has a delivery room. With each cap, the new mother receives a DVD about infant care.
Now retired after 30 years working as a nurse, Norman said she worked in pediatrics and saw the results of shaken babies who lived.
“I also worked in trauma and ER and had (shaken babies) handed to me dead,” she said.
Norman said her husband, Walter, was a police officer in Wichita before he earned a degree in industrial engineering.
“He would haul the men off responsible for hurting or fatally injuring a baby,” she said. “We had deep feelings (about what was happening).”
Norman said she saw a lot of death in her line of work.
“Shaken baby can be prevented, unlike cancer or other diseases,” she said.
Norman said the Click for Babies campaign is “not for show,” but rather is a positive way to educate people about how dangerous shaken baby syndrome actually can be.
“The major impact behind those little hats,” she said, “is that a child or baby doesn’t have his little brain attached to the skull as well as we do as adults. Shaking that little baby rattles the brain and absolutely tears it up.”
Survivors of SBS
Norman knows a couple who have an 11-year-old grandson with the mentality of a 5-year-old because he was shaken.
“Another gentleman works at Parkside Homes and said he can identify with shaken baby,” she said. He told Norman he has adopted his wife’s child and her former husband is still in jail for child abuse.
Talking with people who help raise a child with SBS adds to Norman’s sadness that these situations continue to happen.
Born and raised in Hillsboro, Norman left the area when she was 17. After graduating from high school, she worked in Wichita and went through Wesley School of Nursing. She and her husband moved back to Hillsboro four years ago.
A growing effort
Now in its second year, the KCSL has increased its goal to 7,000 baby caps. Norman said last year Parkside Homes turned in 299 caps, but volunteers have already exceeded 300 this year.
The deadline to send the newborn caps is Oct. 1.
“I plan to drive to Wichita Sept. 26 to deliver the last of the caps,” Norman said.
One woman in Marion has already made 180 caps, and volunteers at the Hillsboro Senior Center have made 83 so far.
Norman said she plans to deliver the first collection of caps Wednesday.
“Seven thousand hats is a lot of hats,” she said.
Each cap must be sorted and washed and tassels, fringe or fuzz removed.
“Otherwise the baby could choke,” she said.
Norman and others say they have reminded volunteers about not adding extras to the caps, but some people add them anyway because they think the caps look cuter with them.
As the activity director at Parkside Homes, Funk said a new club was formed for anyone looking for a project, activity or fellowship.
The club meets from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Wednesday in the living area at the facility.
“A lot of community ladies come each week, but sometimes they are not the same people,” Funk said. “We have had three to 10 people working Wednesdays on this project.”
Those who don’t knit or crochet also are invited, she said.
“The club is just about being with others in the community.”
Karen Ehrlich is one of several people in Marion involved in the project.
“We are up to 252 (caps) and were expected to get more over the weekend,” she said.
Ehrlich, owner of Down on the Corner in Marion, said one 94-year-old woman made 107 caps in about two months’ time.
Among the 16 or so volunteers in Marion is an 11-year-old girl who wanted to learn to crochet.
“She has been making hats and is proud as she can be,” Ehrlich said. “It just makes me smile to see some of these people come in who are doing something for others.”
The Marion Senior Center is also working on hats.
For more information about the program, go to clickforbabies.org.