In Search Of…Baby Hats

Reported by Jennifer Livingston


When a baby is born at Franciscan Skemp hospital in La Crosse…a tiny memento is placed on their heads. “They’re
functional. They help maintain babies heat. But they are also wonderful keepsakes as their child grows,” says the
director of the family birthplace Bonny Young.

Home made hats have a tradition at the hospital for more than 30 years. “When they first started coming in, they
were simple, small hats. Now, they’ve become more elaborate and fashionable. We’ve seen theme’s for Christmas,” says

Behind a good number of the hats the hospital receives, is this woman. Ellie Brown has been knitting since she was
13-years-old – but it was just a few years ago when she decided to start donating the hats. “I thought ‘well that
looks like fun.’ I was retired and so I thought, ‘why not?'”

It’s an idea that she got from a woman very close to her heart. Ellie’s mother-i n-law, Ann Brown was the focus of
a story we did back in 2002. She was 90 at the time and really enjoyed the baby hats project. “I was happy to do it
because it kept me busy.” Unfortunately, Ann passed away not long after our story aired, but this common thread with
her daughter-in-law is keeping that Brown tradition alive. “I started in ’02 and I’ve made 2,632 hats.”

Factor in that it takes a little more than an hour per hat and that’s a lot of dedication. “It’s an amazing gift of
love,” says Young.

“It’s very rewarding. It’s just fun. And you know you’re doing something productive.” Hat after hat after hat is
making what is an already special day even more meaningful.