Corinne Phillips, 17, of Gardendale, Ala., a junior at Hope Christian School in Pelham, has led a small army of volunteers in knitting more than 3,000 hats for premature babies and cancer patients through Hats for Health, an organization she founded almost five years ago. Corinne started knitting hats after her aunt gave her a loom one Christmas, and before long had more hats than I knew what to do with, she said. After hearing a friends mother a nurse in a local neonatal intensive care unit talk about the perils of being born too early, and then touring the NICU, Corinne knew she had found a way to put her hats to good use. I learned most of your body heat escapes from your head and my hats were the perfect solution for these babies, she said. She also decided to make hats for people undergoing treatment for cancer.
Realizing that the impact of her project would be greater with more participants, Corinne began teaching friends to knit hats, and then conducted 17 free classes for nearly 300 people from all parts of Alabama, who then went home to teach others the skill. News coverage of her campaign brought inquiries from other states, so Corinne filmed an instructional YouTube video and created a Facebook page. During a mission trip, she donated looms and yarn to women in Jamaica and taught them knitting skills to help support their families. So far, Corinne and her army of knitters have donated hats to hospitals in 15 states and in Tanzania, Jamaica, Haiti, Honduras and Canada. Her goal, she said, is to expand her project to encompass every state and as many countries as possible around the world.