"Without hats, we would have no civilization," said world-famous fashion designer Christian Dior.
Helen Knobles wasn't so much worried about civilization as health when she kicked off a special project three years ago.
She started to make hats for cancer patients.
The 86-year-old Mariposa resident sorted though a box full of colorful hats Monday afternoon at the Mercy Cancer Center, where she'd made a stop to drop off 34 of them. "All I care is that when they put them on, that they have a smile," she said. "Then I've done my job."
She has made a total of 137 hats from September 2009 to September this year. That number grew from 70 hats she made the first year, and 80 the second year. Knobles said community members donate most of the fabric and pieces of jewelry that she adds to the hats for decoration. "I don't do this all on my own," she added.
Knobles' friend, Andria Matala, a retired teacher in Mariposa who drove her to Mercy on Monday, said that although people donate most of the material, Knobles does the creative part on her own. "You just have to have your own imagination, and this is what you can do," Knobles explained.
Most of the hats, which vary in colors and patterns, take half a yard of fabric to make. But others can take two-thirds or three-fourths of a yard.
Knobles said she was inspired to create warm, colorful and decorative hats for cancer patients because the disease ransacked her family. Fortunately, she has avoided it. "When you've been so blessed, it's time to give back," she added. "I'm just so thankful to be in decent health at my age. When I'm this old, and people who are 35 are going through (cancer treatment), it doesn't seem fair."
Knobles said she hopes the hats will make cancer patients feel better as they go through their treatment.
June Brown, director of the cancer center, said the hats fit well for patients who have lost their hair through chemotherapy, drug treatments or other causes. "It's hard for women to accept hair loss," she said. "Women have a hard time."
However, the hats make them feel better, she said. The hats fly off the shelves fast. "(Patients) want more than one," she said.
Matala, who is one of the many people who have donated material for Knobles to make the hats, said that she "cheers her on," in her efforts. Knobles' actions will help make a difference in the patients' lives. "Anybody who is going through cancer needs encouragement, and needs to know that others care," she added.
Most of the material needed for the hats is donated, but Knobles occasionally buys material because it catches her attention at the stores. After dropping off the hats at Mercy's cancer center, she was headed to a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store. "I have to put blinders on because I want to get them all," she said of the various fabrics.
The hats Knobles made the first year were distributed throughout cancer centers in Fresno. This year and last, she distributed the hats at the Mercy Cancer Center and the Central Valley Cancer Center off Yosemite Avenue.
Yolanda Vasquez, medical assistant at Central Valley, said Knobles stops by at the facility four to six times a year. She usually brings in 10 to 15 hats.
Vasquez said Knobles brings in new hats depending on the weather or when she has new styles. She said patients have seen the benefits of the hats. "A couple of them have actually contacted her and sent her thank you letters to show their appreciation," she said. "A lot of them appreciate them because they have lost their hair."
Knobles said people have asked her how much the hats cost, and she has replied that she doesn't sell them. "There is no way I would ever take money for this. That's not what this is about," she added. "It would take all the joy of what this is about."
You could say they're a cap to her career.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507, or email@example.com.