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New Sewickley knitter nears 2,000th cap for Native American children

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Mary C. Wilson, 83, pulls out a thank-you note from children attending school on an American Indian reservation who received hand-knit caps from her. More colorful caps await delivery in the craft room of her Freedom home on Friday, November 1, 2013.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Wilson is close to her goal of knitting 2,000 caps for American Indian children on reservations across the country.

Mary C. Wilson of New Sewickley in Beaver County had a modest goal when she began knitting caps for Native American children about seven years ago.

“I set myself a goal of 100 caps but thought I would never get that far,” Wilson said.

Wilson far exceeded her goal. She's nearing her 2,000th cap, with no plans to quit.

“As long as I'm able, I'll keep making them,” said Wilson, 83, a retired dental hygienist.

Wilson makes about 300 caps a year for Knit-A-Cap, a nonprofit that has provided hand-knit caps to children on reservations to fight ear infections since the late 1960s.

Donating materials, knitters follow instructions and make sure each cap looks different. Wilson said she has sent caps to reservations in Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Washington state.

“My biggest shipment was 370” caps, she said.

Lana Shaugnessy, longtime director of Washington-based Knit-A-Cap, said Wilson is among 100 knitters nationwide. More than 50,000 caps have been made, and about 3,000 are donated each year.

“Mary has much devotion, and is so sweet, so sincere,” Shaugnessy said. “Her caps truly are knitted with love. She wants to do something positive.”

Wilson, who considers knitting good therapy for her arthritic hands, spends about five hours on each cap.

Her husband, Donald, a retired attorney and civil engineer, helps her choose colors. “He likes orange,” Wilson said.

Wilson enjoys receiving thank-you letters from students and teachers. Children on one reservation sent a large banner on which they drew colored pictures of their caps.

Wilson learned about Knit-A-Cap as a member of the knitting group in Beaver Area Memorial Library.

Group founder Vicki Teets has donated materials, and Teets admires Wilson's dedication.

“She's a special lady (who is) very enthusiastic about her cap goal,” Teets said. “I try to supply Mary with yarns and needles that are donated to us.”

Teets said Wilson donated 30 scarves to a library fundraiser a year ago.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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