When Local Kay Alston decided it was time to retire, she wanted to find a project she could devote her time to. Having worked at the Capitol Gazette, as a secondary education teacher, and with the State of Maryland Judiciary, Kay was not one to simply slip into a sleepy, boring life as a retiree. After looking at various charities,and being inspired by her childhood, she decided to found her own.
When she was younger, Kay’s grandmother passed away from breast cancer. Ever since, she has been contributing in multiple ways to “the cause,” whether it be knitting “Chemo hats” or supporting the Susan G. Komen Foundation. One day, while looking at patterns at hats, she was reminded that, as a young girl, she would knit dolls from yarn. Looking for a charity to become a part of, and remembering her talent, she decided to use her yarn skills to found “Happy Hats.”
Happy Hats make unique handmade hats adorned with yarn hair. Going through chemo is incredibly hard on the body, and many women and girls lose their hair. Happy Hats Provides a fun and stylish and fun way for girls with cancer to cover their heads and express themselves.
In order to make the hats, Kay sought help from the community. In the short period of time between 2018 and “the lockdown,” Kay held 48 wig workshops and made over hundreds of unique hats. She would hold workshops everywhere from churches to senior centers. It takes new participants, on average, 2 to 3 hours to put together one of the hats. You don’t need any experience,” she explained to me, “if you’re new I will guide you through the process, pretty much anyone is capable of doing it.” She hopes to start the workshops back up again as the pandemic subsides.
Kay’s hats are given away locally- and internationally. Some of the organizations Happy hats are distributed through include Johns Hopkins and The Breast Center at Union Hospital. She fills special requests from individuals all around the world, including recently,from people in need in the Philippines.
Kay says that the work she does for Happy Hats, beyond providing for others, helps her feel personally fulfilled through her retirement. “Lots of seniors don’t do anything after they retire. I think doing community work like I have is good for your mind and for your body.” She believes that retirees have a lot to offer to the community, and that more should tap in to their inner potential.
Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, Kay had to suspend her Happy Hat workshops. Since the pandemic began, Kay and her supporters have put together nearly a thousand “mask mates,” to help make wearing masks more comfortable. If you would like to learn more about Happy Hats you can go to their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/