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Emily Landeen, Deseret News
Bonnie Porter started the 12 Days of Christmas Charity Challenge last year. The idea is to make hats for babies born premature. People who sign up are asked to crochet at least 12 hats and then bring them to a local hospital. So far this year, they have made 20,000 hats. On Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, in Kaysville, Porter shows just how small the hats are.

KAYSVILLE — The red, crocheted hat doesn't quite cover Bonnie Potter's hand.

But it will fit nicely on the head of a newborn being cared for this holiday season in neonatal intensive care units. And Potter hopes it comforts families who may be having a difficult time with their baby being in the NICU.

Potter understands how they feel. Two of her four kids spent time in the NICU after being born premature. When someone donated a crocheted hat to the hospital and she put that hat on her baby's head, it made all the difference.

"Being in a warmer and everything, it was hard to associate that with 'that's my baby,'" Potter said. "And when I got to hold them and put on a hat and dress them, it made them feel like a baby."

That's what sparked Potter to begin the 12 Days of Christmas Charity Challenge on her Facebook page, Sunset Crochet.

Many babies in the NICU don't get to wear clothes because of their tubes, wires and monitoring equipment, she said, but they are allowed to wear simple hats and booties.

Families often don't have anything small enough for their new tiny infants to wear, Potter said, and that's where Sunset Crochet comes in.

"A hat is such a personal touch," she said. "It's something that's handmade. It's something that someone took the time for your baby to have."

This is the second year for the project. On the first day of the challenge, Dec. 1, she had 500 to 600 people signed up to crochet the tiny hats. Two weeks later, more than 1,700 people had signed up for the project, and more people volunteer every day, she said.

Volunteers come from all over the world, Potter said, including Australia, France and Thailand.

Volunteers are challenged to make at least 12 hats in 12 days. Once they agree to the challenge, they receive 12 patterns to choose from, or they can make one of their own patterns.

When they finish the challenge, volunteers are asked to post a photo on Facebook and then drop the hats off at a local hospital. So far, the Christmas crochet volunteers have made 20,000 hats this year, ranging from plum size to orange size.

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In some cultures around the world, the 12 days of Christmas actually begins Dec. 25 and ends Jan. 6, so the challenge is open until Christmas Day.

Potter said she often reads stories from mothers who have lost their babies and others who are forming close bonds with their family members through the project.

"They can put on a hat and hold their baby close just for a little while, and it is a tender and special time, and it's something they can take home and keep," Potter said. "It's very, very healing for everyone involved."

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: niyamba@ksl.com