A large box filled with skeins of multicolored yarn, delivered by pirates to So Original Yarn Studio in Columbia, was indeed a treasure chest for recipient Brittany Harrison.
As the head of the Baltimore chapter of the Magic Yarn Project, a nonprofit that provides free character wigs to children dealing with cancer and other medical hair loss, Harrison will create mermaid wigs and pirate Jack Sparrow’s famous locks with the help from a generous donation from HoCo Pirate Adventures, a pirate-themed scavenger group, for the month of September – National Children’s Cancer Month.
“The whole situation is actually three separate, really beautiful stories,” said Harrison, of Sykesville, Md. “I like the idea of what we can all achieve together, the ripple effects of just one thing.”
It starts with Harrison, who first started crocheting character hats for her children in 2016 as a hobby. Discovering the Magic Yarn Project on Facebook, she began shipping her creations to its Alaska headquarters until the nonprofit opened several chapters across the country in 2019.
Now she donates her creations to local charities, including the Baltimore-based Casey Cares Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House Baltimore. She has also supplied wigs to Chai Lifeline Mid-Atlantic Region and Sinai Hospital, as well as individual requests.
“So much is needed locally,” Harrison said. “This is a huge yarn donation. One hundred skeins of yarn is 75 wigs. That’s big.”
HoCo Pirate Adventures chief pirate Chris Fuchs donated $700 to Harrison’s Magic Yarn Project chapter after approaching him with the idea this summer.
“This is the best thing we’ve done so far,” said Fuchs. “It’s win, win, win.”
Since July 2020, Fuchs has been hosting monthly pirate-themed scavenger hunts for youth throughout Howard County. The hunts are typically available 24/7 for about 10 days, with treasure maps downloadable for a $5 donation. Part of the fee is used to buy ‘treasure’ for the hunt and another part is used to return give to the community, Fuchs said. Past donations have been to organizations such as Howard County Special Olympics and the Howard County Police Department.
“I always try to go local,” said Fuchs, who asked Harrison to find a local yarn store to make her purchase.
That request wasn’t easy, Harrison said, because many of the smaller yarn stores were unable to order the mass-produced yarn Harrison had requested for the wigs. Enter Lana Ford, who reopened her store, So Original Yarn Studio, in July after Olney’s move to Columbia, Maryland.
“She asked… and I thought, ‘How can I not?’ said Ford. “It’s a really great program. It speaks to everyone’s heart.”
In Ford’s store, she has displayed Harrison’s creations. Rapunzel’s long blonde hair braided with flowers, Jack Sparrow’s dark beaded braids and a red bandana, and Elsa’s signature long white braid are all easily recognizable hairstyles of beloved Disney characters.
“They are so beautiful,” said Ford. “They are pretty elaborate these wigs. Very labour-intensive.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Harrison hosted events with volunteers — everyone from Scouts and youth groups to mom groups and friends — working together to complete a wig.
“Instead of painting at night, you go out with friends and do the same thing, but work on a wig and do something good,” Harrison said. “I’d bring the hats and they’d attach the yarn and add the ribbons, rhinestones, whatever that character needed.”
Ford is hosting a Magic Yarn Project event at its store on September 26 at noon. She also ordered extra yarn for the wigs to keep in her shop for anyone interested in the project.
“You don’t need any knitting or crochet skills at all,” Harrison said. “People can cut yarn. You can help.”
Harrison is grateful for the support that Fuchs and Ford have provided and is excited to bring more attention to the Magic Yarn Project.
“When you see what all these kids are going through, it’s heartbreaking,” Harrison said. “This is all for the kids.”