88yo knits teddies and beanies for sick children and cancer patients
Vilma “Billie” James is a woman on a mission, and she sure knows how to spin a good yarn.
The 88-year-old former dairy farmer has knitted more than 100 beanies for patients undergoing chemotherapy and has since turned her attention to crocheting teddies for children in the paediatric ward at the Tweed Hospital.
Billie has recently finished her 20th teddy, no easy task considering it takes three days to create just one.
Her plight was inspired by her granddaughter, who was undergoing chemotherapy. Billie started knitting beanies to help her stay warm in the winter, and soon realised she had the ability to help to others too.
WATCH Billie's story on Seven News Gold Goast.
“I got the idea of doing the beanies for the Tweed Hospital. And in about two or three months, I knitted about 100 beanies. I received two nice letters from them, thanking me,” she says.
The hospital was extremely grateful and someone asked if she knew how to crochet teddy bears as well.
“It had been a long time since I was a regular knitter of toys. I can remember thinking, 'Well that is it, no more toys, too much work involved.' How true. But I decided to do these bears anyway."
They’re a lot of work, but the joy they bring to the tiny little children is why I keep knitting care bears, stuffing, sewing them up, it’s all worthwhile.
Billie had run out of wool, so she posted a note on the Bupa Pottsville Beach staff notice board.
“I put a notice up asking if anyone could help me. Thanks to the kindness of staff, I was soon swamped with bags of bright coloured wool. I had to write another note saying thank you, no more wool!”
Billie’s husband sadly passed away a few months ago, so knitting for the hospital has kept her mind occupied during an otherwise sad time.
Bupa Pottsville Beach Lifestyle Co-ordinator Nikki Waters says carers, staff and residents have loved following Billie's progress and helping her reach her goals.
“We are so proud of Billie and her achievements. She is a remarkable woman who deserves the recognition and praise for her all efforts. It has given her a huge sense of pride and joy,” she says.
A feeling that's clearly mutual.
“They are talking extra good care of me. From the cleaning staff to the laundry ladies, to the activities group. They are especially nice people. They’ve become like my family,” Billie says.
While Billie continues to live an active and busy life, tending to the garden at the home, knitting and walking, one thing she doesn’t think she’ll ever master is modern technology.
“My daughter taps a button on the phone and the next moment, she’s taken a photo! And then seconds later she’s sent it to someone on the other side of the world. It’s all a bit of hocus pocus to me.”
And, she thinks people may be better off without it, anyway.
“Old people tend to have a lot of common sense than young people do. We always depended on common sense to survive, young people don’t. They depend on mobile phones to survive.”
Now that Billie has completed her goal of 20 teddies, she’s back to knitting even more beanies, always on the look-out for the next person to help.