July 13, 2022 -- When Bryn Hammock learned that the babies in her local hospital’s NICU could only spend 2 hours a day with their parents due to COVID-19 restrictions early in the pandemic, the 18-year-old, who lives in Atlanta, wanted to find a way to help.
Her first step: Speaking with her grandmother, Deanna Simmons, 73, a now-retired pediatric nurse who is also her Girl Scout troop leader and knew her granddaughter was looking for a unique Girl Scout Gold Award project.
“Bryn didn’t want to do a routine project,” Simmons says. “So, when a friend observed that one of the nurses at our local hospitals was making these weighted hand-shaped mitts that simulate the feeling of being held by a parent, Bryn got in contact with her.”
That person became Hammock's project advisor, and before long she was assigned a coach, who pushed Hammock to expand the project to help as many people as possible, Simmons says.
At first, Hammock planned to have the team make 30 mitts, Simmons says. But with the help of her grandmother, Hammock knew she could do more. The teen created a pattern, basically two pieces of flannel shaped like an oven mitt with a double stitch, sewn around a pound of Polyfill.
“During COVID-19, I had to teach Bryn how to use my sewing machine over FaceTime,” Simmons says. “But, before long, she and the other volunteers had gotten the hang of it.”
To help production continue as efficiently as possible, Hammock produced a DIY video and enlisted 18 volunteers to sew these mitts, which were soon to be known as Tiny Hugs.
In the end, the group made 140 Tiny Hugs that were then donated to seven hospitals around the state. Hammock even did some of the deliveries herself.
This quickly became a passion project for Hammock, who will begin her pre-med studies at Auburn University in Auburn, AL, this fall.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about how they’re so little, so helpless and in the hospital where it’s scary to not have a parent with you,” she says. “I wanted to bring a little relief to those families.”
One of the most satisfying parts of the project: Hearing how much comfort the babies got from having the mitts to hold onto.
“One baby who got a mitt still plays with it during tummy time,” Hammock says. “I got to see photos when she was a baby in the NICU and then saw how well she’s doing a year later, and that makes me so happy.”
Simmons says she wasn’t in the least bit surprised to see her granddaughter’s determination in action and the work continues.
“Bryn had a call yesterday from a group in Colorado who want to get involved,” she says. “It’s a wonderful project and I am so very proud of her, but Bryn has always had a giving heart and cares about people. I hope I’m around long enough to see where she goes in life.”
For Hammock, it’s a no-brainer for teens to roll up their sleeves and help -- wherever they see a need.
“I definitely think it’s cool that I was able to do something like this at a young age,” she says. “I want to inspire other young people so they know they can do something like this, too.”