December is a busy time, and yet you all still managed to fashion 182 items! Wow! Impressive!

The month before, in November, you brought in 51 items. (Sorry I don't have any photos from that month, but I missed the meeting.)

While waiting for her chemotherapy treatment at the University of Minnesota Cancer Care Center, North Branch resident JoAnna Keocher makes hats on a loom to donate to others who are battling cancer. Keocher is a part of Team Yarn - Head Huggers, an organization dedicated to providing the comfort of hats, scarves, shawls, lapghans, and other handmade items to people who are fighting cancer and other chronic illnesses. More at
Team Yarn representatives Amy Pass and Joselyn Pettit, surrounded by nurses and staff members, drop off 100 hats at the University of Minnesota Cancer Care Center. Of course, some were made there in the hospital by Team Yarn member JoAnna Keocher who is being treated for leukemia there.
North Branch resident JoAnna Keocher (front) and mother Bernice Foster of Amery, Wis. display a collection of hats Keocher made while being treated for leukemia. She donated the stack of hats, the most she’d ever made before, to Team Yarn - Head Huggers to be given to others battling cancer and chronic illnesses.
Ask JoAnna Keocher what she’s doing as she’s waiting for her chemotherapy treatments, and she’ll cheerfully tell you: “It’s a funny story. I belong to Team Yarn - Head Huggers, and I’m making hats for cancer patients!”

Yes, you heard that right. As she’s getting treated for her own leukemia at the University of Minnesota Cancer Care Center in Minneapolis, the North Branch woman is doing what she can to help others with cancer.

Keocher has been using a loom to make hats for several years, following the lead of her mother Bernice Foster of Amery, Wis. Both donate what they make to Team Yarn - Head Huggers, an organization begun in 2012 in honor of Koecher’s aunt, Cheryl Slater of Isanti, Minn., who died from a rare and agressive form of cancer.

The mission of Team Yarn is to provide the comfort of hats, scarves, shawls, lapghans, and other handmade items to people who are fighting cancer and other chronic illnesses. Items are all donated within the greater Twin Cities area. To date, the group has donated nearly 3,000 handmade items.

Since experiencing cancer firsthand, Keocher has begun making her hats a little differently. She’s found that she prefers hats to come down just to her ears, rather than to cover them, and so she’s started making her hats a bit shorter than before.

Keocher has been glad to have something to keep her hands busy while she’s in the hospital every few weeks for her chemotherapy treatments and recovering at home in between hospital stays.

“I have never made so many hats at one time,” she observed. “It gives me something to do. I don’t want to just sit.” Several women from her workplace at Wyoming Machine in Stacy donated yarn for her to use, and she’s also used yarn donated directly to Team Yarn.

One day, a nurse observed her at work, and let her know she could donate her finished hats on the fifth floor of the hospital. A few weeks later, on Sept. 20, 2017, two representatives from Team Yarn dropped off 100 hats at the University’s Cancer Care Center in honor of Keocher. Of course, the donation boxes included some of the hats Keocher had made.

Discovering she had cancer came as a shock to Keocher, who went into the Wyoming Hospital on Aug. 14 because of pain in her chest, and was immediately transported to the University’s Cancer Care Center where she spent the next 24 days. She is expecting to be out of work for three to six months. Recognizing the financial strain this is putting on the family, a friend started a Go Fund Me page. Donate at

Team Yarn is always looking for more people to get involved. Drop off items during the monthly meet-up on the third Sunday of every month, 1-3 p.m., at Silverwood Park in Minneapolis, Minn. or drop off donations at the Cambridge Century 21 office when open.

For more information or to send a donation, email Be sure to stay updated by browsing or visit the group’s Facebook page.

For the past four years, we have been making red, white and blue items to donate to the VA Hospital in Minneapolis on or near Veterans' Day. This year we dropped off 18 items on Friday, Nov. 10.

... And discovered that the hospital is pretty barebones on Veterans' Day. While they were holding a special ceremony later, when we were there many offices were closed, including the Volunteer office where we usually drop our donations. Luckily, we ran into a few ladies in the hall, and one had a key to let us into the Volunteer office! So we were still able to donate that day. (Thank goodness! Those bags were heavy with lapghans!)

Read more about our past 5 donations here. 

A new covered walkway since we were here last!
It took two large plastic bags and three huge boxes to hold our Nov. 7, 2017 donation to Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury. In all, we donated 100 items. Of those, 29 were shawls and blankets (filling up the three gigantic boxes) and the rest were hats.

The kiddos and I managed the drop-off without Amy this time, and were in and out quick, with the help of a wheelchair. The two staff people who accepted our donation raved about the variety and quality. You should proud!

"This time of year, these items go so quickly. We can use hats, blankets and shawls!" said Susan Lombardi when I emailed her the week before. "Thank you for thinking of us!!

We have donated to Woodwinds three other times, in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Click here to read more about these past donation and the care offered at Woodwinds.

At a table in the entryway, patients can help themselves to hats, heatpacks, and a word of encouragement.

Origami Cranes of Hope is a new program at Woodwinds. Folks can volunteer to make these items of encouragement, and those who are fighting cancer can pick them up in the entryway at their appointments.

The number of blankets and shawls in Amy's closet is increasing rapidly! This month, in October, you brought in 31 hats and 5 blankets for a total of 36 items. Last month's donation sites just wanted hats, so we're looking for a site for the October donations that desires shawls and blankets. It's been fun to see how people are tackling larger and more complicated projects, always challenging themselves. You're all so inspiring!