Tight-knitted group of Oracle Volunteers lend support to breast cancer survivors

October 8, 2021 | 4 minute read
Alex Chan
Writer, Brand and Content Marketing
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Building upon last year’s success, Oracle Volunteers will offer their stitching skills during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October 2022.

Since 2020, members of Oracle’s crochet group—an ever-growing circle of employees who meet regularly via Zoom to improve their crochet and knitting skills—have been creating handmade, lightweight, customized prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies. These “knockers” are knitted by volunteers based on patterns offered by knittedknockers.org, a nonprofit that provides volunteers knitting patterns and distributes the knockers to breast cancer survivors.

Last year’s project was originally intended to span only September and October. But due to the success and interest amongst Oracle Volunteers, the group continued stitching for Knitted Knockers until the end of that year. A total of 137 knockers were made and 38 new members also joined the Oracle crochet group.

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, the Oracle crochet group will meet every week to knit as many knockers as they can to support knittedknockers.org. Oracle Business Analyst Kristina Kolstad, a member of the group, says that the effort is personal for many of the dozens of participants.

“We all know someone who’s been touched by this,” says Kolstad. “People have been through horrible parts of this process and need a little bit of comfort. While in-person volunteering is still not available to us, we’re still doing hands-on work that is touching someone else.”

Knitting a better solution

Knittedknockers.org founder Barbara Demorest started the organization after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, according to the knittedknockers.org site. One day, she met with a doctor for more information about silicone prosthesis.

Knowing that most women are not happy with the typically heavy and costly prosthesis, Demorest’s doctor gave her the pattern for a knitted knocker and she had a friend make two for her. In contrast to the silicone prosthesis, knitted knockers are light, soft, colorful, and capable of being washed or used for swimming if made with certain blends and materials. After wearing one for the first time, Demorest became inspired to find ways to make the item accessible to other women.

Oracle curriculum developer Debora Leite started the crochet group
for employees as a way to share her love for the craft.

Since then, Demorest’s quest for a better solution has inspired others. Indeed, after seeing the knittedknockers.org booth at a textile and craft fair—which turned out to be one of the last events she attended before the pandemic—Kolstad was motivated to take action. 

Kolstad remembers when her friend who had cancer was looking for better alternatives to wear instead of the usual prosthesis. She once let Kolstad hold a prosthetic in her hand to feel the exact weight and texture. “I had no idea how unpleasantly tactile they were,” says Kolstad. “They’re really not even comfortable in your hand. And in the summer months, they must be so uncomfortable.”

Kolstad discussed the idea of knitting for them with Oracle Curriculum Developer Debora Leite. Leite has steadily gathered the crochet group for employees since 2019 with the support of the Oracle Volunteering program and the Oracle Women’s Leadership community. 

“I’m always trying to spread my passion,” says Leite, who primarily gathered the Bay Area crochet group in-person before the pandemic. “I learned how to crochet with my grandma when I was eight and I’ve taught my four nieces how to knit. I was really glad to build this group because I wouldn’t have met these amazing people if it wasn’t for crochet or knitting.”

This year, Leite looks forward to seeing members who were at a beginner level last year take on the Knitted Knocker crochet pattern with the skills they’ve built since then.

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing more people with the confidence to try,” says Leite. “We encourage people with all crochet levels at our group, since we alternate between easy and challenging patterns throughout the year.”

Stitching the world together

During the onset of COVID-19, knitting Oracle Volunteers began meeting via Zoom, which allowed employees from numerous Oracle locations to join in on the activities.

This year, the group plans to adopt a clinic to give the knockers to, instead of shipping to the organization in previous years, and to hold stuffing events where they prepare the knockers for distribution.

Amanda Vidmontas with some of the many knitted creations
Oracle volunteers in LAD have sent to hospital patients.

While Oracle has a myriad of volunteer projects open to employees, knitting to support those going through cancer is a cause that hits close to home for many volunteers in the company.

“This particular subculture within Oracle – of creative, energetic volunteers with mad hook and needle skills – never ceases to amaze,” says Colleen Cassity, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship. “It’s a beautiful thing to see grow and spread around the world.”

Interested in joining Oracle Volunteers during Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Volunteers may contact Debora Leite debora.leite@oracle.com and Kristina Kolstad kristina.kolstad@oracle.com for more details.

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Alex Chan

Writer, Brand and Content Marketing

Alex Chan is a writer for Oracle. She was previously a reporter for The Orange County Register and subsidiaries of the Los Angeles Times.

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