Chain reaction

Alumna’s crew fills KC fence with warmth to share

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rcr | teresa boos

Teresa Boos often recruits her friends for surprise projects. “I’m always trying to drag as many people along as I can, but this time I didn’t have to do much dragging,” she says of her plan to provide hats and scarves for folks in need. “They were all in.” 

A fall 2020 news story about a Utah woman who festooned a forlorn chain-link fence with winter essentials, free for the taking, provided a pattern for Boos, who lives in Hays and has crocheted since she was a young girl. She looped in friends from Kansas and far beyond, in Minnesota, New Jersey and Florida, who soon began sending boxes of hats and scarves to Boos, s’94. A clinical social worker who cares for veterans with PTSD, she is keenly aware of the pandemic’s contagion of despair and isolation. “I just thought that amid all the heartache and heartbreak,” she says, “we needed to do something to get our heads in the right place and realize that in spite of it all we could make a difference.” 

As the boxes piled up in her basement, Boos crafted plans to deliver the gifts to folks in Kansas City, where in 2006 she and her husband, Loren, stayed for nearly 100 days while Teresa recovered from a stem-cell transplant to overcome leukemia. 

But where to find a good fence to share the handmade wares? Boos saw the perfect place in another news story, about the community organization Operation Breakthrough’s Ignition Lab, which, thanks to funding from Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, provides job training for teenagers in a remodeled muffler shop near 30th and Troost. A chain-link fence borders the property.

rcr | teresa note

Last fall, Boos tied up the logistical loose ends to make the delivery, even alerting the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department to her scheme. On Dec. 4, the day before the 15th anniversary of her transplant (Boos calls it her “re-birthday”), she rallied friends and family to hang 300 hats and scarves on the Ignition Lab’s fence, with local police officers pitching in. Each item carried a note with the message: “I am not lost or forgotten and neither are you! I was handmade for you! If you are cold and need me, please take me to keep warm.”

“It was a beautiful thing to see all the colors on an ugly fence,” Boos says. But even more lovely was the moment she shared with a man riding a bike who stopped to admire the display. “I said, ‘Do you need a hat or scarf?’” After Boos assured him that it was OK to choose a hat, he asked if he could give another to a friend. Word of the warm gifts soon spread to others in need, and the handcrafted wonders quickly found homes.   

Boos then delivered 125 hats and scarves for patients in the bone marrow transplant and oncology units at the University of Kansas Health System, where her doctor, Sunil Abhyankar, treats patients, directs the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center and teaches KU Medical Center students as a professor. When Boos visits Abhyankar each December for her checkup, they continue a tradition: “There’s so much love and admiration and respect between Dr. A and I and my husband,” she explains, “we just started taking photos at my annual appointment. He shows them to his students.”

In January Boos reported that she and  her pals already were stitching their 2022 deliveries, coming in December to a Kansas City fence and cancer patients at KU. “My husband just said this morning, ‘What is this big box of yarn that just showed up?’”

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

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