When big-hearted Annalisa answered a call to donate blood and plasma to the Australian Red Cross, she had no idea how her simple act of kindness would lead to one of the biggest challenges she has ever set for herself.
Without the qualifications to work with children, but a burning desire to help nevertheless, Annalisa, 27 decided to volunteer to make Trauma Teddies – despite having never picked up a knitting needle or being taught how to sew.
“I thought it was a real cool way to help those in need, especially kids in hospitals,” she explains.
“I was hoping that there would be someone who would be kind enough to teach me to knit, let alone be patient with me as I learn!”
She found the required kindness and patience when she joined the Melbourne’s Frankston Trauma Teddy team in June, and now spends her Fridays with a group of volunteers to help sick children.
“The majority are aged between the late-50s to the early 90s, and we sit together and knit together, and they teach me how to knit and sew. I’ve already made five teddies and I’m working on my sixth. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything!”
Annalisa was recognised as an Amazon Star for her commitment to helping the community and gifted $1,000 by the company which also made a donation to the Australian Red Cross to assist in its incredible work saving lives.
Over one million children have cuddled a colourful, comforting Trauma Teddy since volunteers for the Australian Red Cross started hand-knitting them in 1990, and Annalisa says the reaction from kids who receive one is “priceless”.
She is just one of 600 volunteer knitters in 75 knitting groups around Australia who lovingly make about 50,000 teddies each year for children in hospital, although they have also been given to kids fleeing bushfires and as welcome gifts to refugee children.
Annalisa, who started donating blood and plasma in March this year, only discovered the joy of working with the Frankston Trauma Teddies team, after she was temporarily unable to donate blood and plasma because of a minor health issue.
And now she’s more committed to the cause than ever before.
“At the moment I’m just taking my time to really hone my skills and also making a plan on how I’m going to go about my goal next year – because if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. I’ve got plenty of time to prepare myself,” she says.”
To keep her motivated on achieving that huge goal of knitting 500 teddies next year, Annalisa’s dad, Darren, has promised he will throw her a party with a cake with 500 candles on it, if she reaches the milestone.
“I love to be able to prove my dad wrong,” she jokes, urging anyone who is able and not scared of needles to volunteer to donate blood and plasma to the Australian Red Cross.
To see how you can help the Australian Red Cross, head to https://www.redcross.org.au/