Merlene Davis: Help keep Ky.'s Special Olympians warm with scarves

Since 2009, Special Olympics North America has asked volunteers to knit or crochet scarves for the athletes taking part in the Winter Games.

Thousands were donated and, unfortunately, that prosperity was the undoing of the Special Olympics USA Scarf Project. According to a release, the donations outpaced the number of winter athletes and supporters for whom the scarves were intended so the program was canceled.

For a while it looked as though athletes in the 2013 Winter Games wouldn't have the special souvenir that connected them to one another. But that was only a short while.

This year, about 19 states have decided to have scarves made with their chosen colors, and Kentucky is one of them.

"We chose to do the project again, but this time for our own athletes," said Brittany Abell, field services director for Special Olympics Kentucky. "It is a symbol of unity."

Last year more than 700 scarves were donated even though state organizers were only hoping for 500, she said.

"Our mail man's car was full of boxes," Abell said, laughing. "I think he was ready for our project to be over with. He was a great supporter."

The scarves came from knitting groups throughout the state, some of whom drove to Frankfort to deliver them. More than 155 people participated, Abell said. Because it was a national project, the surplus scarves were donated to the team in Maryland.

Athletes, coaches and volunteers will be given a scarf during the 2013 State Winter Games, on Jan. 27- 29 at Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg, Ind. That means the scarves need to be in Frankfort by Jan. 16.

The colors this year are black and gray, but not just any black and gray. To ensure the colors are uniform, Abell asks that volunteers choose Red Heart Super Saver yarn No. 312 in black or No. 400 in grey heather. Or the yarn can be Red Heart Soft yarn, No. 4614 in black or No. 9440 in grey heather. Either will do.

The scarves must be 54 to 60 inches long and six inches wide, but there are no restrictions on design except that both colors must be incorporated in each scarf.

"Any design is welcome," Abell said. "You can do anything that you want."

Last year, some volunteers added "2012" to the scarves and some added stars.

Once completed, each scarf should be placed separately in a plastic re-sealable bag with the sender's name and address included on a 3-by-5 card.

Abell needs at least 500. So far, she doesn't know of anyone who is working on the scarves. "We're trying to get the word out."

The scarves were given out last year during the opening ceremonies, she said.

"I heard them say they hope to get a new one next year," she said of the athletes.

But that is up to you. Get your knitting or crocheting groups together and start moving those needles.

"For those who don't have time to volunteer at the Games," Abell said, "they can stay home and knit."

It is a good reason to get involved.