92-year-old Morrie Boogaart is terminally ill and bedridden, but that’s not stopping him from helping people in need.
Boogaart has skin cancer and spends every waking moment knitting warm and cozy hats that he then donates to homeless individuals. It’s a simple act of kindness and one that can have a profound and lasting effect.
Dubbed "The Hat Man," Boogaart told WZZM13 that he learned to knit hats back in 2001 from his daughter, Karen Lauters. Boogaart loved it. It lit a spark in him. And since then, he's been using that skill to put smiles on other people’s faces.
"They’re really warm and I make all different colors," Boogaart told Health Beat. "I do it all day and all night. I fall asleep at 11 and wake up at 2 and do it again. I’m certainly glad I can do this."
Boogaart has knitted and donated more than 8,000 hats — and counting.
Nowadays, Boogaart averages around one hat every two days. He uses a nifty hoop with set loops where he places the layers of yarn over. After a few hours of knitting (and a couple of coffee and sleep breaks in between), his work of art is completed.
From there, Boogaart’s daughter, Karen, loads up boxes and donates them to organizations such as the Salvation Army and Mel Trotter Ministries, where they are given out to individuals who are homeless.
"A winter hat means a lot to people here," Abbey Sladick, director of communications for Mel Trotter told WZZM13. "Knowing that they have something on their head that keeps them warm and was knitted with love, I think, is wonderful.
Since Boogaart’s story has gone viral, he’s received gifts from all around the world — heartfelt letters, flowers, cookies, you name it! But you know what Boogaart loves to receive the most? You guessed it — yarn to make more hats. In fact, he recently received a huge donation from a Georgia yarn company called Red Heart.
As of 2014, there were 97,642 homeless people in Michigan. Boogaart's hats aren't going to fix that, but his work is a great reminder that we can all be more compassionate and do what we can.
There are lots of ways to do something that you love while helping people in need. One Detroit business even uses arts and crafts to help the homeless through a paid training program that can lead to employment. And thanks to organizations such as Michigan's Campaign to End Homelessness, we're seeing more and more progress every day.
In fact, the number of chronically homeless individuals in Michigan decreased from 10,330 in 2014 to 6,675 in 2015. There's still a long way to go to ending homelessness altogether, but small acts by individuals, coupled with policies and programs such as providing job training, can go a long way in making a big difference down the road.
At the end of the day, Boogaart shows us that it’s all about finding your purpose and paying it forward.
He says that learning to knit was the best thing that ever happened to him. And considering what he’s done with that skill, it’s easy to see why.
Boogaart is a shining example that it’s never too late to learn something new and make an impact on others.