Newborns in developing countries will soon get a special delivery, courtesy of Niagara County students — a shipment of soft, comfortable knit hats.

At the Orleans/Niagara BOCES Alternative Parenting Program in Sanborn, the teenage girls — all of whom are either pregnant or have children themselves — have been knitting hats for mothers in developing countries as part of a national project.

The “Knit One, Save One” project started at BOCES when Darlene Mariani, science teacher for the Alternative Parenting Program, was looking for something to do with her own knitting skills.

“I have all these little bits and pieces of yarn in my house, so I figured I needed to do something with it,” she said.

She went online and soon found the Web site for Save the Children, an independent organization dedicated to helping children in need around the world.

Save the Children’s Knit One, Save One program, an effort launched with the help of the Warm Up America Foundation, aims to help protect the 4 million newborns in the developing world who die each year during their first month of life.

As Mariani did more research, she realized the program would be a perfect project for her students.

“It was a perfect fit,” Mariani said. “It was so inter-disciplinary.”

The project doesn’t only involve knitting. The 15 girls in the program also wrote letters to President-elect Barack Obama, asking him to make child survival a higher priority. With each cap, the girls wrote a card with a message to the woman who would be receiving it.

The caps made by the teens at BOCES will be sent to many countries, including Ethiopia, Mozambique and Afghanistan.

When Mariani told the girls the statistics about how many babies die each year due to lack of health care, it really hit home.

“Even though they might think they have things bad at home, there’s always somebody worse off than they are,” she said.

Once the girls got involved in the project, it “snowballed,” Mariani said.

“They don’t know how to crochet or knit, and being a high school, we don’t have that much time to play around with things like that,” she said.

She provided the girls with the use of her small knitting loom, perfect for the size of a baby’s cap, and they got to work.

“We taught a few students, and they taught each other, and pretty soon, everybody in the program was able to do at least one hat,” she said.

Students Marteen Crogan, 17, and Brittany Swanson, 19, both of Wheatfield, each made two hats.

“It feels good,” Crogan said. “I hope it really does help them the way we expect it to.”

Teacher Peg Behnke, who coordinates the Alternative Parenting Program, said even though the program was not part of the cirriculum, the girls learned a lot from it.

“I think it was wonderful for the girls to be able to make something to give to someone else,” Behnke said. “I think it warmed their hearts, having their own babies, that they can do something for girls less fortunate than they are.”

The girls each made one hat for donation, and one for their own baby. Some of the teachers got involved as well, making hats and donating yarn for the project.

Student Amanda Lasson, 17, of Lockport, said she wrote a message to the woman who will receive her hat.

“It kinda makes me feel good,” she said.

“We hope that it helps them,” said student Amanda Cameron, 17, of North Tonawanda, who has a 4-month-old child. “I like to help out. I would want somebody to help me out if it was me.”

In all, they made 350 hats, which will be sent out this weekend.

Mariani said people throughout the community donated yarn, postage and other items for the project.

“It was kind of like the whole community got involved in it,” she said. “It was really neat.”

Contact reporter April Amadon at 439-9222, ext. 6251.

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