Micro-Preemie Proved Doctors Wrong and is Now Paying It Forward by Knitting Hats for Other Preemies
By Lisa M. Cherry
When Sarina Rohr was born almost three decades ago in 1990, her mother, Manuela, was simply grateful for each additional day she was able to spend with her micro-preemie.
Born just one pound and 15 ounces only five months into gestation, the doctors predicted Sarina wouldn’t survive the first few nights; and if she did, she would have severe handicaps.
But her mother, an avid yogi and yoga teacher, vowed the breath of life would save her baby girl—and now 29 years later, Sarina is a 5’8” tall college student who loves knitting.
Sarina first began selling knitted hats and scarves as a means of earning taxi money to get to school. Then one day while admiring the hat her mother knit for her as a preemie, she had an epiphany: she could knit hats for other preemies to keep them warm.
And that’s how Hats with a Mission was born.
“I love the thought that not one baby born ‘too soon’ will go home without a hat,” Sarina excitedly explains. “I’m often lonely, but when I knit with others at my charity-knitting events, I feel wonderful. We have Girl Scouts and seniors knit with us—it’s so much fun!”
In the last few months, the mother-daughter duo has teamed up with other knitting groups from Santa Rosa, California to Germany (Manuela’s native country) and knitted more than 250 tiny hats adorned with the label “Hats with a Mission”.
Forty of the hats were donated to the NICU in her mother’s hometown of Speyer, Germany last June. Then to “pay forward” the gift of her own life in September, Sarina donated 40 more hats to the same NICU where she was born at University Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Additionally, her mother received 184 more hats back in November from their partnering knitting groups in Germany. Half of the hats will be donated to the NICUs in California and half will go to other NICUs around the country.
Many more hats are being prepared to fill orders which have come in from Austria, Albania, and several other countries as the word spreads.
“It’s Sarina’s vision. Like a lotus, it took root in the deepness of her soul’s longing and I see it bloom,” Manuela says. “And I will help her grow this dream. It holds mine in its arms.”
The mother-daughter duo now plans to register “Hats with a Mission” as a nonprofit, with funds distributed to knitters who have disabilities like Sarina for the organic cotton yarn (totaling about $15 a hat), needles, and shipping costs. They also plan to set up a fund for people like Sarina who are special-needs to support their education when it’s not granted by the state, and to help support them and their families as well.
“My mission, most of all, is to educate people to make inclusion possible,” says Sarina, a naturally determined human rights activist. “I don’t want to be on the side lines of life—I want to be with everybody else.”
“I want to show the world what’s possible if we focus on our strengths and not the weaknesses, and help each other. I don’t let my hiccups define me—but people who don’t know me do. I am different but not less.”
Lisa Cherry is the editor of Stories From the Yogic Heart, an inspiring collection of memoirs by yoga enthusiasts, including Sting and Mariel Hemingway, about their experiences in the mystical world of yoga. Lisa is also a freelance contributor to Yoga International, the Yoga Journal, Canada’s Globe and Mail, and more.