by Anna Ferraro
When Tracy Ptacek, a teacher at Routt Catholic High School, decided to sample a new hobby for herself this winter, she wasn’t expecting it to ignite a mini-movement with her students for helping those in need – but that’s what happened.
Here’s how it began… In early October, during a typical shopping trip, a glance at a yarn display piqued her interest in crocheting. Right there, she said, “I used my phone to watch a ‘How to Crochet’ video, got a list of what I would need, and bought it on the spot.”
Back at home, she dove into more tutorials and settled on a beautiful project – crocheting a baby blanket. The satisfaction and accomplishment of watching her hook create row after row of neat stitches gave her an idea, “I bet my students would love this.”
She was right. And with Catholic Schools Week coming up in January, an idea began to form in Ptacek’s mind. She explains, “We usually organize a collection of some sort and this is where my inspiration came from. What a great way to impact our community, providing warmth to babies.”
Through discussing her idea with several other staff members, Ptacek worked out how to coordinate this with the students’ service project objectives. She says, “It took about 10 minutes to work out the details, and we had a full-fledged project planned.”
Ptacek recounts, “The next day (October 27th), an announcement was made over the intercom that students could participate in a baby blanket-making drive and that no previous experience was necessary; we would all learn together.” Ptacek noted with surprise the enthusiasm that the students in her class responded with when they heard the announcement. But she wasn’t done being surprised. She says, “I had planned and prepared for around five students to show up that first Monday (Oct 31st). Between lunch and after school there were 17!” With sack lunches in one hand, and crochet hooks in the other, the high school students dove all in, just like their teacher had.
A students’ grandmother donated two garbage bags full of yarn and a baggie full of crochet hooks for the project. And it was a good thing too, for over the next few days, the group kept growing. By the end of the week, there were 29 students and three teachers participating. Ptacek comments, “I could not be more excited or proud of our students. The common goal of helping those in need unites them.” Together, stitch-by-stitch, they’re getting closer to their goal – creating dozens of blankets to donate to needy families during Catholic Schools’ Week.
As the weeks go by, Ptacek continues to facilitate the project, gathering the students’ supplies, getting them started, tracking their progress and their service hours, and upholding a quality standard all the way.
And as the students crochet together over their lunch break, Ptacek says, “it is so wonderful to watch. [They] work with purpose and determination that I don’t think some might have if they were working on a project just for themselves. But they pull out stitches and start over with smiles because they know what they are doing is important and they want to be a part of it. I watch the perseverance when they are learning the initial stitches, and how their eyes light up as they see their blankets come together. They are proud of their accomplishment, but I think it is their giving hearts that put the smiles on their faces. They know that they are making something important for someone else.”
While Ptacek’s spontaneous moment in front of a yarn display created an unexpected mini movement over her students’ lunch hour, for her, it did something else that was unexpected. She shares, “I did not expect to feel so completely filled with joy. Not only at the number of blankets we will make and donate, but at the sense of school purpose and camaraderie that have developed.”
As the joy, purpose, and camaraderie multiples between the students and their teachers as they daily sort out lunch sacks, stitches, and crochet hooks, Ptacek said reflectively, “I’m picturing a student later in life sitting at home watching TV while crocheting a baby blanket for a future arrival of their own, or a friend, or family member. I hope they will smile, and think back to this baby blanket making drive, and remember….”
Remember the accomplishments. Remember the camaraderie. And most of all, remember the joy of giving.