Hollis women craft scarves for Boston Marathon runners

HOLLIS – They meet weekly, to socialize and use their talents to do something good for the community. They knit and crochet prayer shawls, caps for premature babies, hats to raise awareness for shaken baby syndrome, and lovingly craft items for other causes. And, for the past few weeks, the group of women has been working at a furious pace to help provide scarves for runners in the Boston Marathon.

Project 2014, Year of Remembrance and Hope, is the brainchild of Marilyn Jackson Adams, of Old South Church, which is near the finish line of the marathon.

In a March 4 interview with Boston television station NECN, Adams explained how her son was prevented from completing the marathon last year. Like so many others, he was stopped at Kenmore Square after the bombs went off, and turned away from the course. He will be back again this year.

“This is helping me to show my son how I feel about him and his courage,” she told NECN.

Although the project wasn’t launched until February, it has grown by word of mouth and social networking sites. Tonda Davies, of Hollis, heard about the scarf project and recommended to her friends that they participate in the effort, and they have been at it ever since.

“I’ve always liked the thought of having warmth and comfort for someone in need,” said Mary Thomas, a Hollis knitter who was also featured in the NECN segment, “and this scarf project just really meant kind of the same to me.”

There are 35,000 participants in the marathon, and although scarves are coming in from around the globe, it is not known if the goal of having a scarf for each runner can be met in time. A more attainable goal is to have one for each of the 3,000 or so who attend the blessing of the athletes service held at Old South Church the evening before the marathon. Scarves are pouring in from all around the country and across the world.

The Hollis friends called on friends and family to help, and together they have produced more than 300 scarves. Each scarf is in shades of dark blue and yellow, the official colors of the marathon, and is four to six inches wide, and 50 to 60 inches long. Scarves are knit or crocheted, and a wide array of stitches and patterns have been used, everything from plain with a border, to stripes, chevrons, picots and even shadow care ribbons. One creative knitter incorporated the words Boston Strong in her design.

“I’m proud of our small group and how many people have helped,” said Donna Prest. “We have gotten a lot of attention from Facebook and have made more than we thought we could do.”

Each scarf has a tag attached that reads, “This scarf is interwoven with love and courage,” and is signed by the crafter. Since the marathon draws from an international field, the Hollis group contacted state Sen. Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to donate New Hampshire post cards to include with their creations. They’re especially grateful to Trish Ballantyne, executive director of New Hampshire Made, and Denise Brown, of Raccoon Studios, who designed and printed more than 300 cards for them to use.

On March 30, several baskets of scarves were blessed by Rev. Bob Macfarlane during the Sunday morning service at the Congregational Church of Hollis.

“The scarves were all over the front of the church,” Prest said. “It was a sea of blue and yellow. It’s pretty impressive when you see so many of them together.”

The scarves have been delivered to Old South Church in Boston, and they will be distributed at the Blessing of the Athletes service, as well as after the marathon.

“Once we finish, we won’t let Tonda watch TV or go on Facebook anymore,” quipped Becky Crowther, who added that it really has been fun working together to make as many scarves as possible.

Go to www.oldsouth.org or search for Old South Church on NECN to link to the videos about the scarf project.