Hagerstown area knitter making baby banners for Chambersburg hospital


A Hagerstown area knitter is helping families get through a tough time in their lives and giving herself a little peace at the same time.

Hildegard Stein, a resident of Brookdale Senior Living near Robinwood Drive, recently started knitting buntings for stillborn babies at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital.

“I was looking for something to do,” Stein, 83, said last week. The project keeps her busy, she says.

The idea arose out of a conversation between Brookdale Resident Program Coordinator Shawn Keilholtz and his daughter, Nichole Hockenberry, a nurse on the hospital’s bereavement committee.

Hockenberry said she noticed that there were not many buntings left in the hospital and asked her mother if any of the residents of Brookdale knew how to knit.

Keilholtz said she immediately thought of Stein, who loves to knit.

A bunting is a one-piece garment with no leg openings.

Helping parents cope with the loss

The hospital uses the soft, knitted buntings to tuck a stillborn baby inside, for parents to hold their babies. Hockenberry said they also used blankets or little dresses someone donated, but buntings are easier to use because they open in the front and can be tied closed.

Labor and delivery officials are encouraging parents to hold their stillborn child at least a little bit, Hockenberry said.

“No one ever regretted doing it, but people regretted not doing it,” she said.

A photographer also has the option of taking pictures of the parents with their child, she said.

The bunting is later given to the family as a keepsake, Hockenberry said.

“We really appreciate the time that (Stein) spends on providing them for families,” Hockenberry said.

Hockenberry said nurses also gave parents painted stones, depicting the baby’s footprints. It gives parents something else to hold on to when they want it, she said.

Some of the Hildegard Stein baby buntings made for families served by the Family Birthing Unit at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital.

The rocks are typically painted pink or blue or a neutral color before footprints are added and a sealer is applied, she said.

To help the nurses, Hockenberry also asked her mother if the residents of Brookdale could do the initial base painting on the rocks.

Keilholtz said residents were having fun painting the rocks.

“I already have a whole bunch of prepainted rocks,” Hockenberry said.

One of the Hildegard Stein baby buntings made for families served by the Family Birthing Unit at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital.

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Keilholtz said she learned about the interests and hobbies of the residents of Brookdale when they arrived.

Brookdale officials believe in enriching the lives of residents by providing activities to make emotional, physical, social, spiritual and intellectual connections, she said.

Some residents have recently made scarves for the homeless, Keilholtz said.

Knitting helps Stein relax, Keilholtz said.

It’s something the former German resident has been doing for years, including making prayer shawls decades ago for her church in Frederick County, Md., Keilholtz said.

Stein said she participated in a knitting group at a senior citizens’ center in Frederick.

She uses a basket weave pattern to make the baby buntings. Stein uses short, circular metal knitting needles, to which a cord is attached to help with the round shape of the project.

Stein said she trained several times to be successful on a project. She had a knitting book with a bunting pattern.

Anyone interested in making buntings for the Family Birth Unit can contact Hockenberry at [email protected]

Anyone wishing to donate yarn to help Stein knit baby buntings can drop it off at Brookdale Hagerstown, 20009 Rosebank Way, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

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