Duquesne knitting event promotes cancer awareness

By Victor Essel | The Duquesne Duke

The Duquesne community will be knitting their way to a cure this month.

Students and faculty are invited to knit and crochet every Thursday in February in the Student Union as a grassroots service project for cancer awareness. The products will be donated to the Hillman Cancer Center.

The annual event, which started last Thursday, runs from noon to 1 p.m. in room 609 of the Union. This year will be its fifth year in operation.

“Anyone is welcome to join us,” said Cecilia Hughes of Duquesne’s Department of Gift Planning, and one of the directors of the service project. “Just come to any group meeting on Thursdays in February.”

In the last four years, the knitting and crocheting project donated about 150 scarves and shawls to the Hillman Cancer Center and logged 1000 to 1200 volunteer hours, approximately six to eight hours per scarf.

Hughes and other Duquesne faculty members started the project five years ago in order to get those on campus who enjoyed crocheting or knitting together for a service project, according to Program Director and Investment Center Manager Jennifer Milcarek.

“Initially, we did this in the Business School because several of us were teaching each other either to knit or crochet and meeting at lunchtime to do it,” Milcarek said. “Then we heard about the various grassroots efforts to make hats, scarves, blankets for different causes like cancer.”

Milcarek said it was as a way to offer lessons to anyone who wanted to learn to knit or crochet. Participants made pink scarves for breast cancer patients and survivors. They chose February to hold the weekly meetings.

“February seemed like a good month to plan this. So we have time to gather folks and finish projects for May, which is breast cancer awareness month and Mother’s Day,” she said.

The project was overwhelmingly well received, according to Hughes and Milcarek.

“I think this project is a very thoughtful and helpful one.”

Laurie Roorback
School of Nursing administrative assistant

“Some years we’ve had 30 or more people who came to the February sessions,” Milcarek said. “Additionally, family members of employees and some retired Duquesne employees have sent donated scarves to include with our contributions to the projects.”

Laurie Roorback, administrative assistant in the School of Nursing, attended the first meeting last week and enjoyed the experience.

“This was my first time and Cecilia is a very good instructor. We brought pink yarn for cancer awareness, and we practiced learning to knit,” Roorback said. “I think this project is a very thoughtful and helpful one. I hope more people will join.”

Hughes said there were about 18 people at last Thursday’s meeting. Hughes and Milcarek use their experience to teach those who attend.

“Both Cecilia and I know how to knit and crochet, but she prefers knitting,” Milcarek said. “I prefer crochet, so she tutors the beginning knitters and I tutor the beginning crotcheters.”

In addition, Milcarek occasionally teaches crocheting at the Carrick Carnegie Library.

Even after the service project ends, some of the participants continue to regularly meet on Thursdays to work on projects.

The volunteers all agree they enjoy the social aspect of the project, while knowing they are contributing to a good cause.

“It’s fun to meet people from all over campus and share who we are and what we do at Duquesne University,” Milcarek said.