Man crochets hats for cancer patients, says past drug abuse, prison led him to pay it forward

Man crochets hats for cancer patients, says past drug abuse, prison led him to pay it forward

MADISON, Wis. - Edgerton resident Wendy Oren is waiting for her hair to grow back from the chemotherapy treatments she's been undergoing for the past several months. 

"Janesville Saint Mary's Hospital diagnosed me with ovarian cancer in July," Oren said. 

Oren now wears a chemo cap to conceal her hair loss, which she said is "more comfy and cozy and softer than the wigs they give you."

The story behind the hat Oren wears starts with a man named Kurt Stapleton.

"It's kind of a long story," Stapleton said. "What I do is I crochet hats for people who are going through chemotherapy."

Stapleton works a full-time job from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. He comes home from work and crochets for hours.

"It makes me feel really good," Stapleton said. 

With every stitch Stapleton makes, comes the reminder of how he started crocheting in the first place.

"I started out crocheting in prison," Stapleton said. "I was incarcerated for three and a half years for two counts of armed robbery. I was addicted to painkillers. I lost my job and hit rock bottom. I decided to steal pills from a pharmacy."

Stapleton said crocheting in prison gave him purpose at a time when he felt he was hanging on by a thread. When he got out, he felt he needed to keep his hands busy.

"I have changed my life and become a better person," Stapleton said. "I now have a 3-year-old son who I am trying to lead by example. In 2006, my father passed away from cancer. This is kind of my way of helping him and helping others because I wasn't able to do anything for him."

Stapleton said he hopes his son will follow in his footsteps one day and pick up crocheting as a hobby as well. 

Stapleton said it takes him about an hour and a half to make a hat. He also makes blankets, stuffed animals, towels and other items. 

"Kurt is definitely doing something that is very, very, very powerful," Oren said. 

Stapleton said he only wishes to do good things like this for others, make his father proud and pay it forward. 

"I wish I could go back and tell the people that I've truly hurt that I'm sorry for what I've done," Stapleton said. "But I also wish they could see me and see what I'm doing with my life."

Stapleton makes the crocheted hats for free. If you would like one of Kurt's crocheted creations, you van visit his Facebook page here or email him at


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