HeartScarves: A Patient Support Program
Imagine this: a woman, in the hospital. It's her heart. She feels frightened, and maybe a little isolated.
Enter another woman, who has been there. A heart disease survivor, bearing a hand-made knit scarf and a small bag covered in hearts and filled with information on managing heart disease. Someone to listen, and to care.
That is the idea behind HeartScarves. Since it was founded by four women heart disease survivors in 2005, thousands of HeartScarves have found their way to thousands of women, thanks to WomenHeart and its volunteers.
Distributed in hospitals and at support network meetings, each hand-made red scarf offers comfort, support, and encouragement for a woman with heart disease, and becomes part of her healing journey.
Get Involved! Download our HeartScarves Infographic Handout!
Volunteer for HeartScarves
There are several ways you can be a part of HeartScarves.
HeartScarves Program Guidelines
- HeartScarves are gifts from the heart. They are never for sale.
- The scarves are red and handmade.
- Each scarf has a label sewn in, identifying the scarf as a WomenHeart heart scarf. These are sewn in at the WomenHeart warehouse.
- A printed gift card is attached to each scarf, explaining the meaning of the program.
- The scarves are often hand-delivered to women in the hospital or cardiac rehab center right after their cardiac event.
- Please note that HeartScarves are often worn indoors. There are some hospital procedures and medical tests where women are allowed to wear their scarves and so they don’t get tangled, we suggest a size of about 3 to 4 inches wide, and 50 to 60 inches long.
After completing your HeartScarves red scarf:
WomenHeart HeartScarves Project
c/o Big Show Product Fulfillment
1525 Gin Road
Gold Hill, NC 28071
Thanks to our HeartScarves Volunteers
San Diego Knitter’s Guild - El Cajon, CA
Fiber Works Ministry - San Diego, CA
Braille Institute - Del Mar, CA
Jazi Crafts - Oceanside, CA
North Coast Knitter’s Guild - San Diego, CA
Palomar Handweavers’ Guild - Escondido, CA
Frederick Department on Aging -Frederick, MD
Bain Center - Columbia, MD
Black Sheep Yarn Shop - Cockeysville, MD
Continental Societies, Inc. - Columbia, MD
Ellicott City Senior Knitters - Ellicott City, MD
Hooks & Needles - Rockville, MD
Y Knot Knitters - Y of Central Maryland - Ellicott City, MD
NYC Crocheter’s Guild - Mount Vernon, NY
Prayer Shawl Knitters of United Methodist Church, Forty Fort, PA
Knitting Ministry of St. John the Baptist Church - Pittston, PA
Area Agency of Aging - Wilkes Barre, PA
Jewish Community Center - Wilkes Barre, PA
College Misericordia University - Dallas, PA
Blanket Bunnies - Bath, PA
Blue Church Knitting & Crocheting Group - Easton, PA
Prayer Shawl Ministry of Dorranceton United Methodist Church - Kingston, PA
The History of HeartScarves
HeartScarves was founded by WomenHeart Champions Marilyn Deak, Suzi Arnegger, Betsy Doherty, and the late Tina Bradford in 2005.
Marilyn, tell us about the work you do for WomenHeart, including your Support Network and other community outreach?
A: My WomenHeart time is divided between running my support group, and theHeartScarves Project.
Occasionally I also host events or help other coordinators with their events.
My support group has become a 'caring community' of wonderful women, and we're often in touch between meetings.
The HeartScarves Project is much more demanding than the group. I've developed relationships with crafts guilds, senior centers, and individuals, who make scarves for us.
I look at every contact with scarf producers as a chance to do some heart health education, and over time I'm finding that the groups of producers want more and more health information.
We've also used HeartScarves for outreach. During the past several years we've had exhibits of the scarves in libraries and museums.
Our group supplies scarves to several other Support Networks in the area and that all keeps me very busy.
Q: How did you first hear about WomenHeart?
A: Through WomenHeart Champion Claire D'Andrea, who was my cardiologist's nurse.
Q: What was it that made you decide to apply to attend WomenHeart's Science & Leadership Symposium?
A: Claire said it was a "must do." She had been to the Symposium the previous year and said that it would change my life. And it did! I came to accept that I had heart disease, that I would have to be my own best advocate, and that I could be connected to a national network of Heart Sisters.
Q: Tell us how you and WomenHeart Champion Suzie Arnegger came up with the idea of HeartScarves?
A: Suzie and I began the project before we went to the 2005 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium. We were in cardiac rehab together and also had the same cardiologist (and cardiology nurse).
When we were accepted to the Symposium, we talked about it a lot. At the same time, Suzie had just learned to knit, and scarves are what knitters learn to make first.
Together, we thought that instead of having to get red dresses for the symposium, we could symbolize our 'heart affiliation' by wearing red scarves, since they were much more portable.
We found that the scarves provided us with a real sense of connection, and we wanted other women with heart disease to have that same sense of connection.
Q: Tell us about your vision for the project.
A: At first, Suzie, friends, and I made all the scarves. It was clear to us that the scarves had to be handmade; that is central to the meaning of the scarves. There truly is a feeling of caring and love that comes with handmade items.
Soon, it became clear that there was no way that we could make the number of scarves that we projected would be needed. I contacted my hand weavers' guild, and asked if they would like to adopt our project. Working with the weavers was so successful that I could envision spreading the project through crafts guilds, first in California, and then nationally.
As serendipity would have it, at the first meeting with the weaver's guild, several members offered us wonderful gifts: contacts with other craft guilds, fundraising opportunities, and the donation of a web site.
Working with the web designer and getting the web site up and running was very exciting, and I sent out the news to WomenHeart headquarters and to the 2005 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium participants.
I received many notes of encouragement, and one was from late WomenHeart Champion Tina Bradford. Tina and I shared the vision of getting WomenHeart to adopt HeartScarves at a national level. We negotiated for two years to get that to occur, and last year it did. Tina would have been delighted.
Q: So, the program is a huge success and provides comfort to women across the country. How does it feel to see a local project that you co-founded have national impact?
A: I'm very pleased that HeartScarves is now a national project, and I'm a bit in awe of the extent of the publicity and the public reach of the project. As it developed here, I felt that it was a perfect fit for the goals and missions of WomenHeart.
Marilyn, Suzie, and Tina: WomenHeart thanks you all for the beautiful gift of this program!
Read HeartScarves testimonials here.