‘Knitted Knockers’ helping support breast cancer survivors

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AVON LAKE, Ohio — Inside the Avon Lake Public Library, you’ll find one section of materials not meant to be returned in the same condition in which they were borrowed. The library is one of the only ones in the country adopting an ambitious project to boost the self-confidence of breast cancer survivors.

“There’s a lot of good that came out of this,” said Laurie Tierney, a board member for the Friends of the ALPL, who first proposed the idea of “Knitted Knockers.”

Tierney beat breast cancer after a 2011 diagnosis. She survived the disease a second time in 2020, but a life-saving mastectomy also took a toll on her confidence.

“It’s a part of your own self-esteem. Unfortunately we look at people and we judge people by how they look,” she said. “I wore heavy sweaters and sweatshirts. Then I went to get a prosthesis. And the prosthesis was horribly heavy and large.”

The often uncomfortable, heavy and expensive breast prosthetics available to women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures inspired the creation of a knitted or crocheted alternative. Knitted Knockers began with a volunteer group in Washington, before knitting groups, craft stores and individuals adopted the idea across the U.S. and abroad.

Tierney’s daughter-in-law introduced her to the concept while on a trip in North Carolina. When she returned to Avon Lake, she knew it was something that could catch on locally.

“I went to the gal who is head of the [ALPL] knitting group and I said, ‘Can you knit these?’ And she said, ‘Sure!’” Tierney said.

The library applied for funding so it could offer complete kits with yarn, needles and a pattern free of charge. In December 2021, it debuted the program with 250 kits.

“We really just needed the manpower, which were the volunteers to knit and crochet. And they came out in droves,” said Shea Alltmont, the ALPL communications manager.

She explained the initiative has garnered support from groups and individuals throughout Northeast Ohio and beyond. Earlier this year, an anonymous donor who lost several loved ones to breast cancer gave $5,000 to bolster the ALPL Knitted Knockers program.

“It’s been amazing – the outpouring of passion, dedication and the desire to help,” Alltmont said.

In less than four months, the library has given out around 500 kits to at least 235 volunteers.

“It’s a very easy way for me to contribute. It’s nice to knit with soft yarn, bright colors on a dreary day here and feel like I’m doing something good,” said knitter Denise Walsh.

The finished product is available for free to anyone who needs it.

“It makes a lot of people feel a lot better about themselves,” said Tierney.

If you’re interested in creating or receiving Knitted Knockers, you can visit the Avon Lake Public Library at 32649 Electric Blvd, Avon Lake, OH 44012 or click on this link.

Find other Ohio Knitted Knockers groups and more information about the initiative by clicking here.

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