Teen turns knitting hobby into heartwarming project

Hannah Levine decided she wanted to give hugs to all of the children and families in need at local hospitals.

Because she couldn’t administer them one by one, Levine, then a sixth-grader at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City, decided she would use her talents to do the next best thing. She began to knit and crochet hats, scarves, blankets and booties for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. Her creations also went to Bundle of Joy, a program of the San Mateo County Health Foundation that provides newborn baby items for families in need, and to Knitting Pals by the Bay, a local organization that provides hand-knitted caps to cancer patients.

Hannah Levine and her knitted hugs

“I love to knit and crochet, and for my bat mitzvah project, I thought it would be a great idea to make all these handmade [items] for kids and adults who need them. It would be like a hug for them,” Levine explained.

Levine started the project about a year ago, when she was preparing for her bat mitzvah at Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame. The synagogue, like many others, encourages its religious school students to do mitzvah projects aimed at helping others during the year they are preparing for their bar or bat mitzvah. Many students choose to volunteer at local organizations, but Levine, who had learned to knit and crochet with her grandmother years before, thought she could use her hobby to do good.

“I think it’s just really fun to do, and it keeps me busy,” said Levine, now 13.

Once she got started, Levine realized that her project could be much bigger than the goods she was able to produce with just her own two hands. So she sent emails to her school and temple communities, asking for knitted donations to the project she dubbed “Hannah’s Warm Hugs.” She also posted flyers at Starbucks and other locations in her area. The warm goods began to pour in.

“It was amazing; more strangers than people she knew started dropping stuff at our door,” said Levine’s mother, Laura Levine. “We ended up with this huge chest of items she was donating.”

All told, the knitted items numbered in the hundreds. Levine made her first round of donations around Hanukkah, after her Nov. 7 bat mitzvah, and later received thank-you letters from the organizations. Levine said that doing good for others made her bat mitzvah more meaningful. She is still knitting and crocheting, and she said the project will continue.

“It’s turned into a bigger thing than she had thought,” her mom said. “It made her feel pretty good; it made us feel pretty good.”

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.