Try to picture this rugged-looking guy, who has been an active athlete all his life, spending his retirement years skiing on Mount Charleston as much as possible but enjoying the better part of the year playing tennis and bicycling almost daily.
The same guy who likes to fast-walk the streets of his Sun City Summerlin neighborhood and also played lots of football and basketball while growing up in Kansas.
So what does he do to avoid noshing on cookies, potato chips and pretzels while watching television in the evening?
He knits hats for babies. That’s right –– hats for tots.
His name is Dan Hays, and he said he has made about 400 ski hats for babies and subsequently for small kids and teenagers in the last three years. The recipients are a ministry at Desert Spring United Methodist Church, 120 N. Pavilion Center Drive, and the Clark County School District.
“They give them out to needy children,” Hays said proudly.
But that’s only half the story. The other half involves Dan’s wife, Linda, who crochets lap robes and baby blankets and scarves for needy mothers and their newborns.
Linda has handcrafted scores of these items, principally for a nonprofit group in Desert Shores known as the Angels, which assists another nonprofit group, Baby’s Bounty, both of which help mothers in need. Baby’s Bounty was founded in 2008 to provide clothing and other needs for homeless Las Vegas mothers and babies born into disadvantaged homes.
It was Linda’s involvement while recuperating from a surgical procedure a few years ago that got Dan into knitting for needy kids.
And would you care to believe it was the Summerlin View that made all of this possible?
“I needed something to do after I had hip replacement,” said Linda, who taught third grade at a Las Vegas school for 27 years before she and Dan, also a retired teacher, moved to Sun City. “I wanted to do something meaningful. It was then that I noticed an article in the Summerlin View that talked about the Angels group in Desert Shores.
“I used to crochet years ago, and the article in the View stirred me. It got me started, and I love what I do. Dan and I do this because it’s a privilege for us to give back.”
The way Dan explained it: “Linda came home one day and told me about the Angel women’s group and what they were doing for Baby’s Bounty. That was three years ago.”
Dan finds that knitting hats for kids serves two genuine purposes in his life.
“I do this to lose weight. It helps me to avoid eating,” he said, laughing. Then he got serious, adding, “These kids who are homeless, and their moms who are homeless, need a warm hat, a warm blanket, a warm scarf.
“Some of them live on the streets; some live in abandoned cars. God only knows where and how others of them live,” he said, as his emotions overcame him.
Linda, who said she buys the yarn and is constantly looking for sale items, explained how she and Dan also began crocheting and knitting scarves and hats for needy, teenage schoolchildren.
“More than a year ago, I read about Title 1 HOPE (Homeless Outreach Program for Education) and its needs. As a result, Linda makes the scarves, and I make the adult-size hats, and these go to homeless teenage students,” Dan explained.
“The Title 1 program distributes the items we make to whomever they consider in most need. We simply bring the scarves and hats to the Title 1 office on Sunrise Avenue,” he said.
Dan added that he and Linda worked at a faster pace to provide the items for homeless kids in advance of Christmas. They received a letter of thanks from the Student Support Services Division of the school district, which administers Title 1 HOPE.
“We would like to thank you for your generous donation during the 2012 holidays. Your commitment to helping the students in our community is sincerely appreciated,” the letter said in part.
Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, “All For Nothing,” is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.