Few things brighten the day better than a soft, cuddly stuffed toy, especially one handmade from the heart. Every time Roena walks through the doors at CAPS with a basket full of newly created crocheted toys, it’s like Christmas. Eyes light up and the staff falls in love with her latest creations.
Roena chooses to use her talent to bring happiness to the children in CAPS’ programs several times a year. Her most recent batch of lovable characters included a very happy Spongebob, a slightly grumpy Squidward, and a silly-faced Patrick. She even included Gary, Spongebob’s pet snail.
Roena’s interest in crocheting began when she was young. She remembers watching her mom crochet rag rugs. “Then my godmother taught me how to (crochet with) other things,” she said. She began by making prayer shawls for church and eventually connected with CAPS. When she first began, she brought homemade holiday cheer in the form of Christmas hats, scarves and mittens.
Then Roena began making the stuff toys using patterns. But before long, she realized she could make most of these lovable companions by simply looking at a picture.
“I’m not sure how many years I’ve been doing this,” said Roena. In 1999 she began keeping a detailed record of all the toys she made and donated to the organization. “But I started making them before that.”
Roena relishes the idea of the toys being given to kids in CAPS’ programs to brighten their day. Since she doesn’t actually see the kids, she is content with knowing that she’s brightened the lives of the kids who receive one of the toys.
“Each year we allow the children in Supervised Visits to choose from the selection of crocheted animals she makes,” said Supervised Visits Director Lashell Brown. “They walk away with smiles for the small gift they receive.”
However, she does get to see the reaction from the staff. CAPS’ employees congregate in the lobby to view her one-of-a-kind signature creations. “I made a Harry Potter once and one of the girls that work here was so excited,” Roena smiled.
There is no tangible way to measure reach of Roena’s generous gifts and the delight they bring to people’s lives. Even the parents of the kids enjoy them
“I have not seen one (of these) since my grandma made them,” said one mom, remembering fondly.
And even though she is in the midst of planning to move, Roena is still crocheting. “I’m working on some new toys,” Roena Willard smiled. “A Ninja turtle, Huckleberry Hound, Ryan’s World and Zoro. And a bunch of hats.”
We can wait to see what cuddly creations Roena has in store for us on her next visit.