Bay Pines youth reach out to cancer patients

ESCANABA – Residents of the local juvenile justice facility are giving back to society. They’re participating in community programs including a current project to make 300 hats for cancer victims at St. Jude Cancer Center in Memphis, Tenn.

So far, 75 hats have been knitted by individuals at Bay Pines Center in Escanaba, said Youth Specialist Sue Jorgensen, explaining the “Hats for Hope” project counts towards community service requirements.

The center’s community service program – called BARJ for Balance and Restorative Justice – involves the youth in a variety of projects, she said.

Examples include helping to serve at community dinners, wrapping Christmas gifts for children, picking up trash on the roadway, and bagging commodities for the needy.

“It’s a way for them to give back to the community,” said Jorgensen. “One of the things we try to teach here is caring for one another.”

“They teach us empathy,” agreed a 17-year-old female at the center, adding, “It makes me feel better, knowing I’m helping others.”

A 15-year-old female said while knitting a hat, “It’s helping kids with cancer. I think it brightens their day. It makes them feel better.”

A third girl, also 15 years old, said she can relate to the cancer victims because her mother suffered from the disease.

“My biggest thing is my mom used to have cancer. I feel what they’re going through because I went through it with my mom,” she said.

She added the project is a worthwhile community service project for the center’s youth because it helps others and makes them feel better.

The girls said the hats are not difficult to make once you get going on one.

“It’s a really easy process to do,” said the 17-year-old. “Doing something for someone else – it motivates you… We know we’re doing this for a purpose.”

About 15 to 20 females and males have been making hats on small round looms, knitting mostly during their spare time in the evening, said Jorgensen.

The hat project started about a month ago. The participants can see the progress they’ve made in a hallway at the center where a rainbow of paper hats represent each hat completed.

“We call it our love line of hats,” said Jorgensen, noting the project is in need of donations of yarn.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,