Samantha crochets incredible hats for kids battling cancer

Samantha 1Samantha Mutschler (25) from Orlando, Florida is on a mission: To brighten the life of a child with cancer, if even for one moment…

With her charity, named Unraveled by Samantha Dawn, Samantha crochets very special hats for kids with cancer, in the shape of the hair of Disney princesses with beautiful curls and braids and flowers, in the shape of minions, Super Mario’s hat, Scooby Doo, Cars, Minnie Mouse – you name it, she made it. So far she has created over 160 hats that have been delivered (by mail, but quite a few personally) to several kids in the United States, but also mailed overseas to kids in Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. I had an online interview with her:

Samantha 4How and why did you start crocheting, and how did you end up making these wonderful hats for kids with cancer?
I was already involved with children with cancer after a family friend (aged 12) was diagnosed with osteosarcoma back in 2010. I made her a fleece blanket and from there sent out a note to my family and friends about supporting me in my venture to make blankets for children with cancer at our local hospital. After a couple years of making blankets I was shopping at Joann Fabrics and ‘randomly’ (not random – completely divine intervention) looked at my mom and said “I want to learn to crochet.” So I bought a book, taught myself the stitches, bought patterns and practiced on those and within 8 months I was writing my own patterns – again divine intervention, because I’ve been told the extent of what I do and my design is uncommon without formal training. It started by sending the hats with the blankets I was already sending out. By this time I was also reaching out to childhood cancer families through Facebook to see if they wanted a blanket and hat, and then one day a mom from New York – because of the power of social media and the kids sharing when they get packages – asked if her son qualified for my hat program and the hats exploded from there. My first international hat was to Australia. Eventually the blanket requests died down and I started focusing fully on hats.

Samantha 2How do you finance all this? Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
My mom has a small daycare in our home. By working for her, helping out with the kids and still getting to crochet, I am afforded the budget to pay for what I need and the time to work on what means the most to me. I couldn’t do it without my Mom’s support. I’ve also had a very close family friend who has supported me from the get go – even during her hard times she has donated to my cause and for that I am forever grateful. The website Go Fund Me has helped in supplying some support in getting some of the extras I like to send as well.

How many hats have you made so far?
I just finished my 165th hat – starting my 166th today… So since 2012- just 3 short years I’ve made that many hats and am now adding dolls and character toys to the mix. I was always going to the store to buy some stuffed animal of some sort to send with the hat, until I realized that I should be crocheting the stuffed animal or doll, not buying them.

Sorting HatWhat is your favorite design? And what was the most complicated one?
My most favorite design is probably when I get a new request that I’ve never attempted… I love a challenge – my next hat is going to be a Brunette Elsa wig with flowers. The girl loves Elsa, but has brunette hair and also loved the look of the flowers like the Rapunzel wig – so I am going to make the flowers on her Brunette Elsa wig blue and white so they look like they are frozen in her hair.
The most complicated one… hmm… maybe the Harry Potter Sorting Hat. It took a couple weeks to get the design concept down with the facial features in the hat. It is by far my favorite hat that I have completed. The young boy from New Zealand who received it, Ethan, would put his hand it it and make it talk too. Unfortunately, Ethan passed away, and his mom told me the Sorting Hat was on display at his funeral…

Samantha 3I noticed you have delivered some of your hats personally to the kids. Do you have any special memories of those deliveries?
I have had the honor of meeting a fair amount of kids because of living so close to Disney. I’ve also been blessed enough to meet kids in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina on the way home from visiting my grandparents up in North Carolina around Christmas time. Each meeting holds a special moment in my heart… From watching Disney’s Wishes Fireworks show with a little girl sitting on my shoulders who said: “Mommy, my wish for Disney came true”, or a little boy falling asleep in my arms on the boat ride back to the parking lot, to playing on the couch with a little girl in Georgia (who I already knew was on hospice…). They along with countless others all hold incredible memories – all of which bring me joy and on occasion great sadness. Something as simple as someone dying on a TV show can spark a memory of one of the kids I’ve lost – I admit I have cried myself to sleep reliving all the memories. When it happens, it’s like I can hear them talking to me all over again, as if they are right there with me. Knowing they are in Heaven softens the hurt, but sometimes its just so overwhelming it can’t be controlled.

Samantha 6What kind of hat do you enjoy making over and over again?
I enjoy repeating the Rapunzel one – its a lot of work but so fun to play with different colors for the flowers and to try and make each one a little unique. I want these kids to feel special so I try to crystallize the different ones to play up the colors differently on each hat.

What are your current goals with Unraveled?
To get my papers filed in the next few days for a non-profit status. It has been crazy busy trying to figure everything out and wording it correctly, and still getting packages with hats sent out… A goal of mine is to see this explode to something much bigger than me – these kids are the reason for the joy in my life. Even through some difficult times last year in my life, a constant for me was making the hats and knowing whatever I was going through was so minuscule compared to what these kids go through…

Thank you very much for this interview, Samantha! To donate to this great cause, click here. For more information and to see more of the beautiful hats and toys Samantha makes, click here for her Facebook page.

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Ambulance charity makes final wishes come true

eerste wensIn 2007 the Dutch Kees Veldboer started the Ambulance Wish Foundation (Stichting Ambulance Wens). For his work as an ambulance driver, he had to transport a former sailor who was terminally ill. Kees had extra time, so he decided to do a detour along the rivers in Vlaardingen. Kees and the sailor started chatting and Kees heard that the man in the back of the ambulance had one final wish: to be on a ship again. A wish that was sheer impossible, since the man would be bedridden until it was his time to go. Kees couldn’t realise that wish at that moment, but after he dropped the man off where he needed to go, he started phoning around and found a company that could do roundtrips by boat that could have an ambulance stretcher. A few days later, Kees borrowed an ambulance from his work and took the man out on a final boattrip. He saw how much joy it gave the sailor to be out on the water again, for one last time.

Wens 3After this, Kees realised that there must be more terminally ill people like this former sailor who had a final wish, but could not realise it due to being unable to move around without proper equipment, like on a proper and comfortable stretcher, in an ambulance. A final visit to a museum, a last time to the beach, seeing your house for the last time. That should change, so he created the Ambulance Wish Foundation.

Nowadays the Foundation has around 200 volunteers and realised over 6000 wishes. They have 5 ambulances that almost all go out daily to fulfill people’s final wishes. With comfortable stretchers, the terminally ill patients are transported in the vehicles with special darkened windows, so the patient has privacy while being able to look outside.

wens 2Several wishes have taken people  to museums, musicals, to see their pets, and even to the special holiday home the Foundation has created for terminally ill patients. Soccer fans have been taken to their favorite team, and last weekend one of them, a 15-year old boy with leukemia, even saw his team win the Dutch Soccer League. Some of the final wishes were bittersweet as well, where patients went to the funeral of their loved ones, or say goodbye to their spouse or child who is also bedridden and terminally ill.

Once there was a woman who would love to attend her granddaughter’s wedding, but she was so ill, that her doctors could not give her the all clear to go. On the morning of the wedding, the Foundation got a phone call, if they could maybe still bring the woman to the wedding. They did and the woman said after the wedding, ‘I still don’t quite know how to comprehend all of this.’ She fell asleep at the end of that day, and didn’t wake up anymore… I think this sums it all up what great work this Foundation does, to bring a final bit of joy in people’s last days.

A video has been made by the Ambulance Wish Foundation in English, and you can see it here.

To donate to ‘Stichting Ambulance Wens’, you can click here. (It’s in Dutch, but I’m sure a translate-website will be able to help you figure it out. If not: please contact me and I’ll send you the details.)

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The happy end for #finddancingman

You may have seen it already, the #finddancingman search has gotten its happy end! On Thursday, March 5th, somebody posted a photo about a dancing man online (I don’t want to post the picture again, it breaks my heart every time I see it), with the bullying text next to it: ‘Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing’. But the internet didn’t laugh along with the OP. Well, the post did go viral, but not the way the poster had hoped. Several people showed their support for the man, saying ‘Everybody has the right to dance freely’ and ‘Everyone is beautiful and a rockstar in their own way’.

Invite for #finddancingmanAlso Cassandra Fairbanks came across this post, and together with her group of almost 2000 inspiring and wonderful women from L.A. (‘a positive, anti-bullying, coconut oil advocating, connected, shameless, beautiful lady cult of awesome’) she decided to try and track this man down to extend him an invite for an amazing dance party. Before starting her search, she did carefully decide that the extra attention would not bring him more embarrassment after seeing the outpour of support for the dancing man. Soon the hashtag #finddancingman was created and went all over Twitter.

After about 11,5 hours a photo showed up with a possible sighting of the dancing guy, and a few hours later it was confirmed that they had found him. Sean from London proved to Cassandra that he was indeed the dancing man she was trying to find and said was happy to accept the invitation. dancingmanfoundFairbanks tweeted about the overwhelming positivity that Sean and her cause was getting. Above all, she and her group of women wanted to send the message that bullying is never OK, online or offline. “Everyone should be able to dance and have a nice evening without cruelty, and we are awesome at parties,” she said. They now have a huge and amazing dance party to throw. “Watch out LA!” Sean asserted. A funding page was created to fly Sean from London to L.A. in a few weeks to have the best party of his life. In less than a day, the crowdfunding page has raised already more than the goal of $20000, and any proceeds not being used for the flights and the party will be donated to an anti-bullying campaign.

Despite this cruel attempt to shame an innocent man, at the end of the talk between Cassandra and Sean, he said, “Big-hearted people far outweigh the small minded, every day of the week.”

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Blue Monday? Here’s some inspiration!

Since today is apparently called Blue Monday (the third monday of the year, the most depressing day of the year, when the holidays seem far away, and the New Year’s resolutions have failed), I decided to give you a little pick me up for those fitness goals you set for yourself for this year. A few days ago I came across this video:

‘This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that…’

So everybody (women and men): get out there, move that body, get fit, healthy, happy and enjoy!

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Diary of a tourguide 2014 – Part 2

IMG_1469As promised after part 1, here is part 2 of 2014’s Diary of a Tourguide!

Diary of a Tourguide, June 3rd part deux, because so much happened that day:
Dear Diary, yesterday we had a friendly family of 5 on the tour and the youngest, a 3-year old girl, is crazy about princesses, like any other 3-year old girl. So she asked if Neuschwanstein was really Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Well sweetie, her castle is based on this one (true story). She also wondered if there was a princess in this castle. Ehm no, today she’s not in the castle… So by the end of the day, their parents let the kids pick out a souvenir that reminds them of this castle. The boys (5 and 7) picked out a miniature and a magnet of the castle. And the little girl, with a pick of pictures, fluffy swans, and other castle gimmicks? She choose…. a pirate flag! I guess a new phase has started for her… haha!

Diary of a Tourguide, June 13th:
Dear Diary, you know I like pina colada’s, but getting caught in the rain not so much… Today I didn’t get a pina colada (okay, I did get a bottle of red wine from a colleague), but we did get caught in the rain….. I was absolutely soaked, I could’ve just as well jumped in the lake fully clothed! Especially my shoes will take a loooooooong time to dry, they each have a full mass (as in: huge beer glass) of water in them right now! Haha!

Diary of a Tourguide, June 21st:
Dear Diary, today I discovered how quickly karma can work. I gave a lady on the tour a 10 cent coin to use for the bathroom, and within 10 minutes I found a 20 cent coin on the ground, yay! 😉

Diary of a Tourguide, July 15th:
Dear Diary, today there was a 60 year-old woman on the tour who went up to Mary’s Bridge, a great viewpoint to see the castle. As she came back, she said slowly in her beautiful aristocratic accent (and a mix of South African and British): You should know that, being born in South Africa in a poor family and having the wrong skin color at the wrong time, I could never ever …. *she choked up a little* … dream about seeing this castle. Never in a million years could I even dare to think that I would be able to visit this castle that I have read about. I’m so very grateful right now… *Okay, I choked up too and gave her a big hug*

Diary of a Tourguide, August 14th:
Dear Diary, since it was my Birthday today and I had to work, I actually had 45 tourists on the bus singing Happy Birthday to me. And a colleague baked me delicious almond-butter-bars. And other colleagues phoned me and sang Happy Birthday together to me. And yesterday I had a great day with Mr Magic, and dinner with awesome friends. And tonight I had a fun skype-chat with my family. And I got a cute, beautiful card via the post, made and written by my 5 year old niece…. Soooooo happy today!

Diary of a Tourguide, September 1st:
Dear Diary, today I noticed I really worked my behind off this summer. As I biked up the hill of Tegelberg, I felt that my pants had dropped below my bum… Okay, okay, it were my rainpants (yes, we had another lovely rainy day here…) and I wore my jeans under it, but still….

Diary of a Tourguide, September 13th:
Dear Diary, today we got followed the whole day by a camera crew from a German tv station. And I can’t believe how lucky we were with the weather. I thought it was going to be a rainy day, which would be a pity for the tv show, but around 12.30 the sun came out and didn’t leave. Oh, and the tv show will mainly show interviews with the various tourists, the main question was what they thought of Germany to visit.

What Would Maaike Do? ;)Diary of a Tourguide, September 22nd:
Dear Diary, today one of the guests on the tour broke her sandal. Anyway, I channeled my inner MacGyver and armed with some tape and a rubber band I fixed the sandal. She was very happy she didn’t have to walk the rest of the day barefooted.

That was it for this year’s diary-entries! Want to read more? Check out last year’s Diary of a tourguide too!

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