Allyson Wonfor's compassion and intellectual curiosity have led her along an amazing path of civic engagement that is changing the lives of those she serves. Her nursing studies piqued her interest in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which led her to co-founding Hearts and Hugs, a non-profit organization through which she crochets and donates hats for tiny, prenatal babies. Allyson didn't even know how to crochet when she helped found Hearts and Hugs, but she didn't let that get in her way. Over the course of a semester she learned how to crochet: during her lunch break, between classes, whenever she had time. She crocheted over 30 tiny hats, taking great care to ensure that the hats were the perfect size for the sick babies. Hats are important because they "reduce most of the loss of heat from the body through the top of the head" (1996). When she shadowed a neonatal nurse at Cleveland Metro Health, she brought along the hats, which she distributed to the parents to put on the infants' heads. Allyson said, "It made me so happy to see (the hats) on the children, knowing that I could make just a small difference in their little lives."
I started my non-profit organization Heart Hugs to support premature and ill infants by crocheting small hats for them. The program is driven by my commitment to help all sick babies, especially those with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Hats are very important, protecting babies from the forty percent heat loss which occurs through an infant's head. My goal is that no infant goes without a warm hat. This is why I have dedicated my time in crocheting hats and distributing them to many hospitals. Cleveland Metrohealth has been exceptional, allowing me to observe and volunteer in my community. NICU nurse supervisor Connie Eggleston stated, "During their withdrawal phase, even with medication, the only thing that truly helps our NAS infants is to be held. Because they are in the intensive care unit, the RNs cannot always sit and hold them, due to caring for other very sick infants, so this is where our volunteers become very beneficial." The neonatal unit at Metrohealth holds forty-nine beds. Each and every child there deserves a volunteer to provide the comfort of human touch, as well as a hat crocheted with love and care. Heart Hugs will continue their mission in supporting neonatal infants.