We were shocked and heartbroken when we heard the tragic news of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The following week, we were encouraged and uplifted by news of a handful of knitters on Ravelry who had started a group to knit monsters for Sandy Hook—one to “protect” and provide comfort to each of the 600 students at the school. The compassion and generosity of the knit and crochet community is well well-known, but we were amazed at how quickly the word spread and how many people supported the initiative. The group, called 600 Monsters Strong, grew rapidly, and thousands of Ravelers began knitting monsters for those children and families affected by the tragedy.
We invited Sarah Waller-Martin (also known as Mama Monster on the group’s Facebook page) to share some background on the organization, and also to provide information on how to get involved. She’s given us an update on how 600 Monsters Strong is adapting to the rapid growth of the cause and shared plans for new ways these monsters can help young victims of traumatic events. Read on to get to know 600 Monsters Strong, find out how you can help, and see some of the monsters that have already been received by Sarah and the team.
Stitch This!: How was the idea for 600 Monsters Strong born?
Sarah: On the evening of the Sandy Hook shootings—December 14th—a number of knitters from Ravelry were discussing the events that happened earlier that day. We wanted to help (like so many people did). So it was decided that we would knit 600 Monsters—one for each of the children of Sandy Hook. We created a Ravelry group to post patterns, swap ideas, etc.
From Annie in Tennessee
ST: What has been the response so far, and how have you put the word out?
Sarah: The response has been absolutely amazing. When I went to bed on the 14th, we had about 60 to 70 members. I woke up that next morning to several emails—from Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and different news affiliates—wanting interviews, asking questions, and letting me know they had told others about the group. Within 24 hours we had over 1000 members, and within a week we had 2000. I never, ever expected it to get this big, and I would never have dreamed that it would; but I see this as a chance to help out a lot of people by harnessing the power of knitters and crocheters. I brought on a few other wonderful women as moderators, and we decided to become a real-life nonprofit to send monsters to children who have been victims of violence, abuse, and traumatic situations.
From D. in Ohio
ST: What organizations are you sending the monsters to?
Sarah: We are still working on outreach for this. The Brady Campaign has been very helpful and supportive, and we have been working with a number of different people to ensure that the monsters are used effectively. If any readers have a specific organization that can use monsters, please contact me via Ravelry or Facebook.. My husband has been picking up monsters two to three times a week from our post office box, and is constantly coming home with a car-full! Knitters are so amazing. I am so excited because we have started to work with the Cincinnati police department, so that officers can have monsters in their cruisers to give to kids who need them. We currently have three monsters that are getting ready for a journey to St. Louis, to children whose father was shot in a car-jacking.
From Emily in California
ST: We’ve seen articles and comments about Newtown being inundated with gifts at this time. How are you responding to that, and what will you do with extra monsters?
Sarah: I think a lot of people had the same reaction we did—everyone wanted to help. This was a horrific situation, and I know a lot of people who sat in front of their computers or TVs feeling helpless and wanting to do something. In regards to Newtown, we are hanging in the background. We’ve had pressure put on us to plan a visit, to get definite dates, to make sure everything is lined up perfectly. When I started the group, though, I made sure to emphasize that this isn’t about us—it’s about Newtown, about Sandy Hook. We are going to do what they want, and give them the time that they need. It’s been just over a month now, and it’s going to take a long time for them to regain any sense of normalcy. We made contact, they liked the idea, but a lot has changed since then.
All monsters will be sent to children that have been impacted by traumatic and/or violent situations. When a monster is sent on “Monster Duty,” there will be plenty of pictures so people will know where their monster is headed. I see every monster that comes into Monster Central as having a specific purpose, and it will be used to the best of its ability. Every monster that comes into Monster Central is loved.
From Jennifer and Karen in New Jersey
ST: How can people get involved?
Sarah: People can find the donation requirements on our Ravelry group. It’s never too late to send monsters! Because we grew so big, we set goals to help more kids. There are a lot of kids out there going through horrible situations, and lots of those little guys need protectors. We do have an Amazon wishlist. Some members are helping out that way. We’re working on becoming a well-rounded organization and have been doing lots of research and reading so we can work on becoming the best group we can.
I did want to address the fact that some people seemed concerned about the use of the term “monster.” Some were worried that it might traumatize the children more. We’ve checked with child psychologists, teachers, organizations, and (most importantly) kids themselves, and got the OK from everyone. If any organization wants to work with us but doesn’t want the term "Monster" used during our partnership, we can work to accommodate that.
Thank you so much for writing about us!
Thank you to Sarah Waller-Martin for taking the time to give us a little more info about 600 Monsters Strong. We hope you’ll consider knitting a monster for the organization—and to offer our support, we’re donating copies of Crocheted Softies, Amigurumi Two, and Amigurumi Toy Box to the group from their Amazon wishlist. We’re excited to see the positive impact that 600 Monsters Strong will be making in the lives of children.
Have you ever been comforted by or comforted a friend with a handmade gift at a traumatic time? Tell us about your experience in the comments.