For the second year in a row, Cassie Hall Elementary and Suwilaawks schools have each received a box of hand-knit toques from a Vancouver program, all meant for students in need of something warm for the winter months.
From a modest start of four shipments to northern B.C. schools three years ago, the two local schools are among 22 this year to receive shipments from Toques for Kids of anywhere from 10 to 70 toques depending upon the size of the school.
Cassie Hall was placed on the recipient list last year after being contacted by Toques for Kids originator Jean Lewandowski, said school secretary Cindy Nunes.
“She asked if there was a need and we said ‘yes,’” Nunes said.
Teachers and staffers distribute the toques based on need among the school’s population. The shipments include purchased gloves and socks.
“If we see them outside and they don’t have proper clothing, we’ll offer them gloves and a toque,” she said. “They are theirs to keep.”
The Vancouver toques complement an annual donation of other toques from Knox United Church here in Terrace.
“They’ve been doing that for years and we really appreciate that,” said Nunes.
Combined, Knox United and Toques for Kids this year have contributed approximately 80 toques.
As with Cassie Hall, Suwilaawks was placed on the Toques for Kids list for the first time last year, becoming a welcome addition to the headgear also provided by Knox United Church.
“It started with a cold call, asking if we needed them. We are a school with higher needs,” said school secretary Christina Gagne.
This year the school received approximately 60 toques between Toques for Kids and Knox United.
“Students who teachers notice are cold will be asked if they want a toque or gloves and if they say ‘yes’ they’ll come to me,” said Gagne.
She said the school regularly receives other donations from parents and others who no longer have a need for clothing suitable for students.
Some of the toques sent north from Vancouver this year came courtesy of residents of Tapestry Arbutus Walk, an independent living residence located in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver.
Approximately 15 residents, all of whom are over 85 with one who is 104, spent up until the end of October knitting the colourful headgear, says Suzanne Summersgill, the wellness director at the residence.
“I think this year it was 170 (toques),” she said. “I was just blown away.”
“Some of the residents gather as a group while others will knit in their rooms,” Summersgill added.
Toques for Kids grew out of a Vancouver knitting effort started by volunteer Jan Lewandowski who supply tiny hand-knit toques to Sheway, a support program for pregnant moms and newborns.
One of the Sheway participants mentioned a niece in Dawson Creek saying there was a much greater need for children in northern B.C. for toques because of the colder winters, Lewandowski said.
“So I called a school there and that’s how it started,” she said.
Lewandowski, a retired director of information technology for private schools, said she’d like to send toques to 10 more northern schools this year but has run out of money for shipping them.
“It’s at least $35 and Canada Post has given us a discount of 10 per cent,” she said.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a private Catholic school in Kitsilano, is now raising money to help with shipping costs.
Summersgill said Tapestry Arbutus Walk residents were no strangers to knitting and other crafts but that for years the end product had mostly been sold to residents and families at craft shows.
“No one else really saw their work and they started looking at how they could donate,” she said. “They couldn’t go to hospitals because of COVID and then this came up.”
Residents also chipped in when it came to paying to ship the boxes to the various schools.
“What we did was organize a virtual walk to the schools using a map of northern B.C.,” said Summersgill of the representative journeys to raise money.
Walkers then made donations, resulting in approximately $1,000 being raised to pay shipping costs.
Those wanting to learn more about Toques for Kids can visit www.toquesforkids.ca