Ahwatukee Foothills resident Mary Ciesynski was a little worried last year when she had set a goal to collect 100 homemade teal hats for ovarian cancer survivors and she wasn’t getting much of a response.

“It seemed so overwhelming,” Ciesynski said. “I wanted to reach the goal, but I wasn’t sure I could reach it alone. I had reached out to some of the crafting community and it seemed like everyone was too busy or didn’t have time to do it. I was afraid I wouldn’t meet the goal, which was going to be very disappointing to me.”

Ciesynski decided to start the Teal Hat Project after her cousin’s niece passed away from the disease. Her cousin had become the president of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition’s Rhode Island Chapter and Ciesynski, who is originally from Rhode Island, was looking for a way to offer support from Arizona. She’d always known how to make hats and thought asking the crafting community to help her make 100 of them for survivors going through chemo therapy would be a great way to help.

The goal was for Ciesynski to collect 100 homemade teal hats, the color for ovarian cancer, to be handed out to survivors at the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Walk to Break the Silence in Rhode Island. After a slow start Ciesynski was able to find support from many in Ahwatukee Foothills and across the nation. In the end 121 hats were collected.

“A lot of the hats that were donated had a letter of inspiration attached from the person who made them,” Ciesynski said. “There were letters of dedication for loved ones they had lost, notes of encouragement, inspirational quotes. It was fantastic. I actually got teary-eyed opening some of the packages because these women would write these heartfelt notes and attach it to the hats for whoever received it. I thought it was really beautiful to have these people they’d never met and weren’t related to just wanted to show their love and support for these women. It was really beautiful and inspirational.”

Ciesynski mailed the hats to her cousin in Rhode Island to pass out during the walk and after all the support she received she’s excited to collect hats again this year. This time the goal is for 200 hats so that 100 can be donated to the walk in Rhode Island and 100 can be handed out at the walk in Arizona on Sunday, Sept. 23.

“I’m doing it again just to continue that feeling of community, love and outreach of energy coming from these women,” Ciesynski said. “I had people that got really excited about donating. One of my friends taught her mother and her brother how to knit as well so they could donate hats as a family. They donated about 25 hats for the cause last year. Her mother was so excited when I told her I was going to do it again this year. She said it was great for them to learn something new and help these women.”

There is no pattern for the hats. The only requirement is that they are teal and homemade. All the hats need to be collected by Aug. 1 so that they can be sorted and mailed in time for the walk.

For more information on the project or where to send hat donations, visit facebook.com/tealhatproject or email tealhatproject@gmail.com. Ciesynski is also accepting monetary donations, which will all go toward shipping costs.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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