Office of Vital Records Staff Knit and Crochet Cuddlies for Preemies

The crafters in the Office of Vital Records (OVR) have been busy! They have made: 

  • 28 hand-knitted and hand-crocheted baby blankets, 
  • 34 darling crocheted octopuses that are more than just plush toys, and, 
  • 15 hand-made incubator covers.

These items are for families of babies in neonatal intensive care units. OVR’s Field Services Team members always cross paths with birth registrars at hospitals. VDH staff train hospital staff on using software to register newborn births with the state properly. 

“We have always been looking for an outreach program for our birthing facilities, said Senior Field Service Representative Denise Cox. 

When Field Services Representative Lisa Cauthorne came across an article about the crocheted octopuses for preemies project, she shared it with her colleagues. 

“We thought it was a great idea because a lot of us are crafters,” Cox said. “We were excited just to give back. In those (neonatal intensive care units), it’s pretty traumatic for many of the mothers… talking with the birth registrars gave us a boost to start this project.” 

“We wanted to participate in something where we can help these children and these families that we affect. And I don’t mean from just a paper perspective, but from a personal perspective,” added Cauthorne. ”To show them we are not just governmental paper pushers.” 

Former OVR staff member Michelle Reid, who has retired, came up with the name “Granny’s Closet.” They kicked the project into gear in August 2022. The blankets and octopuses are made to specifications. The octopuses have a purpose other than being cute – the idea is that the tentacles provide the babies something to grab onto so they don’t grab and dislodge any medical tubing that might be attached to them. 

Meanwhile, Cauthorne reached out to area hospitals about donating the items. On May 10, they donated their first collection of hand-mades to the neonatal intensive care units at Bon Secours Southside Medical Center in Petersburg and to HCA Johnston-Willis Hospital in Chesterfield County. 

They hoped to make Mother’s Day a little brighter for families with babies in the NICUs. 

“We are already involved in these people’s lives through the registration of their birth certificate,” said OVR Director Seth Austin. “This is a way to drill down more of a tangible, personal way to help our staff connect with the work and people we are impacting every day.”