Vicki Jellie was surprised as she walked through her village of Black River, outside of Watertown. “If I go down the street, there are more houses that have had cancer in them than haven’t.”
Jellie’s is one of them. She is in her fifth year of remission from lung cancer, after having two-thirds of her right lung removed Jan. 23, 2008 at Upstate. Wanting to show her gratitude, Jellie picked up her knitting needles and soon recruited friends to help. They make caps.
“They’re free to cancer patients, but if you’re not a cancer patient, I ask for a donation,” she says.
Those donations add up. Last year Caps for Cancer gave $2,037 to the Upstate Cancer Center.
Adult-sized caps take about nine hours to knit and are made of cottons, acrylics, mohairs and a variety of other yarns. Some people help the cause by donating yarn to Jellie, who says her husband, Richard always opens his wallet when she shops for materials. “They’re all different colors, and no two are the same unless I bought a big skein of yarn that’s variegated.”
Inside each cap, a message says that the colors and patterns represent courage, faith, hope and love. Caps for Cancer also makes caps for children and babies. Jellie says she has personally tied off 540 caps.
Jellie was a smoker who quit smoking and got cancer 13 years later anyway. She recognized a need for the caps when she went through chemotherapy after surgery. She saw a male patient in his 40s who donned the only hat available, made of pink fleece.
She learned to knit in third or fourth grade for a school project. She knitted baby clothes and bunting until her children were in middle school, and she made fisherman’s sweaters for her husband for a while. Then she got into ceramics, which she stopped after her diagnosis.
Picking up the knitting needles again made sense for Jellie. Now she has a creative outlet — and a way to help others by spreading the word about the cancer services Upstate has available for people throughout the Central New York region.