1 Woman, 2 Knitting Needles, $2,480 towards Programs for People with Mental Illness
On July 1st, Olympic medalist Clara Hughes pedalled the last kilometre of Clara’s Big Ride, her cross-Canada tour that brought the conversation about mental health to countless communities. Meanwhile, engineer and all-around do-gooder, Jen Ajersch, searched for a way to keep Clara’s message alive and make a difference of her own. Armed with an idea and a pair of knitting needles, Jen set to work designing Hats for Healthy Heads.
The Hats for Healthy Heads initiative was developed around a simple concept: accept donations in exchange for hats commemorating Clara’s Big Ride and give the proceeds to Causeway in support of programs that help individuals with mental health issues find meaningful employment.
The hand-knit hats, all featuring an embroidered image of a bicycle, went for a requested minimum donation of $35, but many people donated $40, $50, and even $100 per order.
“That’s the magic!” says Joan Blanchard, Jen’s friend and a long-time volunteer of Causeway. “I think it’s because Jen is so giving, that people in turn were giving back.”
Word spread quickly with the help of friends who shared the story through social media. In total, Jen received orders for 54 hats and raised $2,480 in a matter of weeks.
“54 hats is a lot of knitting!” says Jen.
Despite what promises to yield a couple of sore hands, Jen remains ever-committed to ending the stigma associated with mental illness. With every hat she sends, an important message is included:
“You’ve chosen to make a donation because mental health issues are important to you. If you’re asked about your hat, use the opportunity to continue the conversation that Clara started. She pedalled her bike, let’s keep peddling the message.”
Jen was unsure, at first, where the money raised would be of best use. She wanted it to go to a small, community organization where the donation would have the greatest impact. Joan Blanchard told Jen about Causeway.
“We love the work they do,” says Joan. “There isn’t a huge bureaucracy. The money goes straight to the community.”
Upon learning more about Causeway, Jen became an enthusiastic supporter. “You help people transform their lives by ‘teaching them to fish’ and providing some opportunities to enter the workforce,” she says. “Your work makes a long term and lasting difference to people with mental health issues. I believe that people feel better when they are productive and independent. I say this because I have lived it myself.”
Jen and her friends stood by the roadside and cheered on Clara Hughes, as she cycled through Dunrobin. They all sported the knitted hats despite the blistering 29 degree Celsius weather. Clara noticed, and gave them high fives.
Jen is an inspiring example of one of the many innovative ways volunteers can make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged people in our community. Causeway Foundation will be honouring Jen’s ingenuity and generosity this fall with a Certificate of Appreciation.
If you have a fundraising idea or a talent you would like to donate, we would love to hear from you! Contact us at email@example.com.