“I think this is awesome! I will keep this as one of her keepsakes,” said Melissa Santos of Willimantic, mother of one-week-old Iesha, as she placed the tiny pink cap on her daughter’s head.
The cap was the handiwork of Susan Tague, a Cigna project manager who came up with the idea to knit hats for the babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“We had 69 knitters and crocheters come together over the past 34 days and produce 1,725 hats,” explained Tague. “They are all different sizes to fit the smallest of preemies up to full-term babies.”
Tague, along with several other Cigna employees involved with the project, delivered the hats – three large bags full – to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center’s NICU at the University of Connecticut Health Center on June 1. The NICU is home to a March of Dimes Family Support program.
The knitting effort was part of Cigna’s annual campaign to support the March of Dimes and it set a record for the largest number of hats being provided at one time.
“The March of Dimes really appreciates the support they get from Cigna all year long,” said Jeanne Lattanzio, the Health Center’s March of Dimes Family Support Specialist. “The babies need the hats, they need to wear hats to keep them warm and these hats are beautiful.”
The NICU treats 500 babies each year, many suffering from complications related to preterm birth. Each baby receives a hat upon admission to help regulate their temperature.
Lattanzio said the parents keep the hats and when they go home, many of them put the caps in their baby’s scrapbook or treasure box.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. Cigna has been a national sponsor of March of Dimes for 18 years.
“This is a perfect fit for us,” said Judy Hartling, Cigna public relations specialist. “The March of Dimes is helping babies get off on a good start, to start their lives healthy, and Cigna’s mission is all about helping people improve their health and well-being so they continue to be healthy all their lives.”
The Cigna knitters used 35 miles worth of yarn and the average volunteer produced 25 hats. They ranged in age from preteens, who helped make the pompons, to a 96-year-old great-grandmother.
Tague says they are already planning for next year and the project has been extended to other Cigna locations throughout the country.