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Pandemic project leads to donation for MCH Birthing Suite

  • Calle Walton of Peterborough recently donated more than 50 handmade baby hats and a pair of blankets to the Monadnock Community Hospital Birthing Suite. Photo by Tracey Bean—

  • Calle Walton of Peterborough recently donated more than 50 handmade baby hats and a pair of blankets to the Monadnock Community Hospital Birthing Suite. Photo by Tracey Bean

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/25/2020 4:18:20 PM

When Calle Walton came home for her school break in March, she had no idea it would turn into an eight-month stay.

But the onset of the coronavirus pandemic prevented the 21-year-old Peterborough native from returning to the W. Ross Macdonald School in Brantford, Ontario, which provides instruction for blind and deafblind students until the age of 21.

Walton  needed something to occupy her time, so she decided to take up knitting, and earlier this month, she dropped off a donation of 56 hats and two blankets for Monadnock Community Hospital’s Birthing Suite.

For Walton, tasks like putting together hats and blankets with matching color patterns requires more than most people. That’s because she lost her sight at the age of 17. It was in third grade when Walton started having some vision problems.

“Everything went super blurry and dark,” Walton said. But it came back in some capacity, so much so that she was working to get her day time driver’s license. But the summer before her senior year of high school, what was originally thought to be an inflammation of the optic nerve and treated as an autoimmune disorder, turned out to be a brain tumor that eventually crushed the nerve.

“One day everything went black,” she said. Walton then went through chemotherapy at the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana Farber and radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital. She’s been cancer-free since April 2017.

Walton has never let losing her sight hinder what her mind tells her is possible. She pursued an acting career and about two weeks ago, returned to Ontario, Canada to resume filming “In the Dark”, a crime drama on CW Network, where she portrays Chloe Riley, the blind daughter of a police officer.

“I’ve naturally had to adapt and pick things up quite quickly,” Walton said, so learning how to knit wasn’t that hard. With the help of her mom Tracey Bean, Walton learned a basic pattern on a table-top loom. She loved how the yarn felt, Bean described the colors and off she went.

“I’ve been making hats up the wazoo,” she said.

While undergoing chemotherapy at MGH, Walton lost her hair; she remembered that while staying at Christopher’s Haven, a nonprofit home for kids and their families battling cancer, there was a hat night where she got to pick one out.

“When I started making the hats, it brought me back to that night at Christopher’s Haven,” Walton said. She still has the hat she received at hat night.

So when she had a collection of hats set for donation, she went down to Christopher’s Haven and met with children staying there. She brought 70 hats with her and told them they could have as many as they wanted.

She has four looms that she uses to create hats of different sizes and materials. More recently, Walton started making baby hats “which are quick and cute,” she said. Bean reached out to Laura Gingras at Monadnock Community Hospital with the idea of making a second donation.

Both she and her brother were born at MCH and “it’s a local hospital with great facilities,” Walton said. So once she had enough that she felt was a sizable donation, she met with Gingras and Ashley Hill, a nurse at the Birthing Suite, and passed along her handmade creations for the region’s newest little ones.

“It feels so good,” Walton said. “Just knowing they’re going to people to keep them warm, especially going into the winter.”

And Walton is not done yet. Even though she returned to Canada for filming, she plans to keep making hats for another donation down the road. She wants to provide more for MCH and would also like to make a donation to the Jimmy Fund, considering how much was done for her during her time there. Walton also plans to make hats for relatives for Christmas.

“It gave me something to do and I love arts and crafts,” Walton said. “I love being able to give someone a gift I handmade for them.”


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