Saturday 13 May laid witness to the Hyatt Hotel Ballroom filled with 72 Canberra themed…
There are not many charities that can say they began with the knitting of a pink pussyhat beanie, but Good Omen Goodeze is no ordinary organisation.
Bringing comfort to the Canberra community one stitch at a time, Good Omen Goodeze (GOG) began when teacher’s aide Mary Liondi-Barlow fell back in love with her childhood obsession of knitting and crocheting.
Enjoying the creativity and mental health benefits linked to the relaxing craft, when her mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 Mary decided to use her knitting to bring some fun and comfort to the hospital room.
“My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer and each year I had been doing the Mother’s Day Classic,” says Mary. “That year she went through chemo and lost all of her hair and I thought ‘let’s make some beanies to wear to walk around the lake’…it was a pussyhat beanie.”
“I was just loving it so I started knitting pussyhat beanies for all of my girlfriends and everybody I could think of….then it got to the point where everyone was like ‘we’ve had enough’,” she adds laughing.
Working through the scraps of wool leftover from her childhood and knitting endless beanies, Mary decided she wanted to donate the growing collection to charity to help Canberra’s homeless in the cold.
“When I went to look online, I couldn’t easily find where to donate them but then I remembered that one of the mums at the school where I work, Kathleen, worked at the hospital,” she says.
Explaining to Mary that her donations could save lives in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Kathleen asked Mary to knit beanies for the hospital.
“Kath told me if you are in an accident, or you’ve gone through trauma, your body starts to shut down. It can’t warm itself and you lose a lot of heat from your head so beanies can save lives” says Mary.
“I was like ‘Really?!’ so I just started sending them to her, as many as I could make.”
Spending every spare moment knitting beanies, scarves and quilts, Mary’s friends soon joined her and word spread through the community. Mary soon found herself hosting knitting groups and as the nurses and doctors asked for more, comfort dolls for adults and kids joined the donations pile.
Finally, Mary realised the group needed a name. Inspired by one of the first beanies she donated, GOG is named after the good omens Mary’s goodies bring.
“Very early on when I knitted one of my first scrappy beanies, one of the patients in the hospital named Chris was very ill,” says Mary.
“His sister walked into the room and saw that beanie and instantly it changed from that clinical area…she walked in and said, ‘My goodness that is such a good omen, my grandad had a beanie like this and now he’s looking down on Chris’…Her brother was so ill they didn’t expect him to survive and when she saw that beanie she felt that positivity and strength coming from her grandad.”
“Chris still keeps the beanie and he always comes in and talks to our group.”
Moving into the important area of wellbeing in 2019, GOG not only offers donated items to comfort patients but runs Knitting for Mindfulness workshops to promote the mental health benefits of the craft.
Beginning as a Knitting for Mindfulness workshop for the ICU nurses and doctors, the workshops were so successful that GOG took the proposal to the Volunteers Services. By the beginning of 2020 it was announced they would be providing a similar wellbeing program for patients and their families in hospital. Unfortunately the week before they were to begin their Mindfulness Workshops, COVID forced them out of the hospital.
Late last year GOG received funding from the ACT Government through its COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellness Innovations Grant to make the wellness workshops available to the general public along with knitting and crochet kits for people to use at home.
GOG has officially become a charity to bring comfort to the community but Mary says in her wildest dreams she never thought it would go this far.
“It’s been a crazy ride for me! I never expected anything like this.”
With over 380 members and growing, Mary looks to the future and hopes GOG will continue to grow so it can help the Canberra community.
“There are a lot of great knitting and crocheting groups out there…I think the difference and why ours is growing is that people want to be doing something for their community.”
“My goal for GOG is to share the skill of crochet and knitting, give comfort to those in need and spread the joy our members get from being creative and giving. The beautiful community we’ve created at GOG nourishes us all and keeps me moving forward.”
For more information about GOG including their Community Threads Project go to goodomengoodeze.org.au
FEATURE IMAGE: Photo by Martin Ollman Photography