“The pain went away, and all I felt was joy…”

Please take a few moments to read this heartwarming and inspiring story from Operation Gratitude volunteer Kelly South:

Just before Christmas of 2010, I had been looking for a way to volunteer my time. A friend told me about Operation Gratitude, and what they do to support our military men and women. I had never heard of this group, but as I read information on the home page, I knew I had found the right place. I come from a family that has sent countless men and women into battle, and it seemed like a perfect fit for me.

As I looked over the list of projects to volunteer for, I began to become a bit discouraged because many of them required a lot more physical movement than I could do. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, and my days are gauged by how much pain I will have to face every time I roll out of bed. But as I read further, I came upon the link for crocheting and knitting.  

That link would help make 2011 a very special year for me, and for over a thousand of our troops.

Now I had never tried to crochet or knit, but I’m a somewhat intelligent person and figured it just couldn’t be that hard to learn. My only concern would be my hands. How could I do this, when I have to have steroids injected into all of my knuckles every 12 weeks to take down the swelling and pain? Would I be able to push through the pain? I have always said that I would not allow this disease to rule my life, and I was determined to do my best. So, I headed off to You Tube, and watched some videos about how to crochet.

After watching videos for a solid 10 minutes, I decided to give it a try. The first scarf I made took almost six hours to complete — this was going to be a lot harder than I had thought! I decided to have another go at it to see if I could do better, and the second one only took two hours. By the time I made my 10th, I was down to just 45 minutes for each scarf, and I began formulating a plan in my head. If I could make just two or three a day, I might be able to make 700 scarves by the time they would need to be delivered. And that crazy idea made 2011 one of the most satisfying years of my life.

Every day, no matter how I felt, I crocheted. I began to realize that the crocheting was delaying the need for my shots, and actually helped with my overall pain. The more focused I became, the better I felt. Granted, there were days when I couldn’t even open a bottle of water because my hands were so swollen and painful, but still I crocheted. I knew what our troops faced every single day in the war zones, and I knew that my pain would not stop me from honoring them.

Month after month I crocheted, and at the beginning of August, I finally sat down and did a count. To my utter amazement, I had not only made 700, but I had actually made more. I couldn’t believe I met my goal even faster than I ever imagined. As I told my family and friends that I passed 700, they asked how it felt to be done with my project. What they didn’t know was that I still had time before they needed to be delivered, and that I had already set my new target goal to 1000. Off I went.

I made my delivery on November 5th, and with me were my main supporters: My friend Irene Figueroa, who wrote over 1000 letters to attach to all of my scarves. Without her, I would have never been able to crochet as much as I did. If I had had to sit and write those letters, I doubt I would have even made my first goal. My partner Ruth Norris, who helped me pay for the $1500 of yarn and was my biggest cheerleader. And finally, my friend Carol Scott, who allowed me to store the scarves in her garage. I also received yarn and gift cards from countless friends and family to help offset some of the cost.

On the day of delivery, we were asked to transfer the scarves from my tubs to those belonging to Operation Gratitude. It took all four of us, plus a dozen Girl Scouts, almost 45 minutes to get the job done! As we moved them we did a count, and to my utter dismay I had only made 991 scarves and hats. I was just nine short of my goal and not happy about it. Those nine scarves bothered me so much that I returned two weeks later with 15 more scarves, and the feeling of accomplishment finally hit.

I had really done it. I had made my goal. The pain went away, and all I felt was joy. I knew that over a thousand of our men and women in uniform would have that moment of home for the holidays. They would know that they were not forgotten by those of us at home, and how much we truly appreciated all they had sacrificed for us. My biggest hope is that for those few short moments home wasn’t quite so far away.

I have been asked why I would do so much for people I don’t know…Why would someone in my condition work so hard and spend so much? Why would I take a year of my life and crochet? Why do so many?

It’s because of what our military does for us. Day in, and day out, they make the ultimate sacrifice and ask nothing in return. They are as selfless as I would strive to be. They are the people we should look up to, and thank each and every single day, for the freedoms we all share.

When people ask those questions of me, my answer back to them will always be the same: “Why wouldn’t I?” –submitted by Kelly South

THANK YOU, Kelly!!

Kelly used the following YouTube videos to teach herself these crochet basics:
Very Beginning Chain
Simple Single Crochet Stitch
Double Crochet Stitch

MORE RESOURCES & INSPIRATION:
Learn How to Crochet
Learn How to Knit
Scarf, Hat, Cool-Tie Project Details: Materials, Size, Patterns
Making Scarves: How To’s and Tips!
Knitting at 98! Meet Joan Mazzarelli!

Have YARN, but no TIME to make scarves/hats? We have volunteers like Kelly who would appreciate donations of yarn to help them continue their projects! Please let us know if you would like to contribute in this way to our Scarves for Troops Program! Send an email to opgrat@gmail.com. THANK YOU!

About Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude annually sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation to Veterans, New Recruits, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas. Our mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of our Active Duty and Veteran communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for all Americans to say "Thank You" to members of our Military. Each package contains donated product valued at $75-100 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than One Million Care Packages.
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6 Responses to “The pain went away, and all I felt was joy…”

  1. Pingback: Spring 2013 “Scarves for Troops” Update | Operation Gratitude Blog

  2. Mary says:

    Hi Kelly, Its Nov. 2012 & I am SO inspired by your story!! I too have Fibro, altho my hands are’nt as affected as yours!! But WOW you accomplished SO much. Are you still crocheting/knitting? for Op.Gratitude? I am in the process of moving(losing my condo,denied x2 for disab) & hope I can make some scarfs soon. First, I too have to watch a couple video’s ect to re-learn how to do either (knit or crochet).
    If we can communicated via email that would be fun! Thanks for your inspiring story! Hope you are continuing to do well!. Mary-San Diego, CA

  3. Pingback: Spring 2012: Scarves for Troops Update! | Operation Gratitude Blog

  4. Loni.Found.Herself says:

    Lovely!

  5. Alan Sexton says:

    Kudos, and keep rockin’ this old school, Kelly, and all. You too, are heroes engaged in a vital, most worthy and blessed of endeavors.

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