Specialty scarves

Williston resident organizes knitting project for Special Olympics

Feb. 23, 2012

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Special Olympics Vermont employees (from left to right) Kim Bookless, Wendy Kenny, Lisa DeNatale and Chris Bernier model scarves that will be provided to athletes prior to the start of the Special Olympics Vermont 2012 Winter Games on March 9. The goal of the scarf project, organized by Williston resident Patty Pasley, is to collect 500 scarves by Feb. 29. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

This year’s Special Olympics will be extra special for the approximately 400 competing Vermonters, thanks to the efforts of a Williston resident and a group of dedicated knitters and crocheters who are handcrafting scarves for every athlete in the competition.

Willistonian Patty Pasley started the scarf project in 2010.

“My mother-in-law and aunts were knitting scarves for the Atlanta Special Olympics, and I wanted to knit too, but I wanted to knit for Vermont,” Pasley said.

The first year, Pasley collected nearly 800 handmade scarves. Last year, she gathered 500 — a benchmark she hopes to equal this year so that there are extra scarves for employees and volunteers.

“It’s not unusual for a knitter to drop off 15 or 20 scarves that she has worked on over the past few months,” said Pasley. “That’s always a surprise to me, since I’m lucky if I could knit one or two in that same time period.”

Chris Bernier, director of marketing and development for Special Olympics Vermont, said the scarves have the effect of unifying the athletes.

“I think it really adds a deeper sense of community for the athletes, because all of the scarves have the same color,” Bernier said.

Pasley agreed.

“The unity that happens when everyone is wearing the same colors is quite empowering, I think, for our athletes, for our volunteers and for our coaches,” she said.

This year’s color scheme is bright red with optional white patterns. Knitters and crocheters are given their choice of pattern, needles and yarn, but washable yarn is preferred. The suggested size of the scarves is 5 feet long by 6 inches wide.

Bernier commented that while the majority of the scarves are locally made, it’s not exclusively a Vermont project.

“They’ve come from really all over the country,” Bernier said. “We just got a note from a group in Italy who’s sending us some scarves. It’s pretty remarkable.”

He added that while Special Olympics’ staff sends out postcards to promote the project and have partnered with some local yarn shops, Pasley deserves the bulk of the credit.

“Patty is really connected in the knitting and crocheting world, so she knows a lot of groups,” said Bernier. “She really deserves all the credit. We just try to help her in any way we can.”

Pasley, who washes all of the scarves prior to the competition, downplayed her role. She said that while she sends flyers to yarn shops and senior centers, interest in the project spreads mainly through word-of-mouth and viral means like Facebook.

She believes the knitters and crocheters are the ones who deserve the credit.

“The handiwork and skill in some of the scarves is astonishing,” Pasley said. “It’s really neat to see these works of art that people give away.”

The Special Olympics Vermont 2012 Winter Games will be held March 9-11 at The Woodstock Inn and Resort and Suicide Six Ski Area in South Pomfret.

Scarves can be mailed or delivered to Special Olympics Vermont, 16 Gregory Drive, Suite 2, South Burlington, Vt., 05403. The deadline is Feb. 29. Questions can be directed to Patty Pasley at