Nfld. & Labrador

Knitters unite to keep finger puppet tradition alive at the Janeway

It's a decades-old tradition for patients at the Janeway Children's Hospital to leave with a new friend.

It's a decades-old tradition for patients at the Janeway Children's Hospital to leave with a new friend

These are a few of the finger puppets being knit by helpful people across the province. (Knitted Finger Puppets for the Janeway/Facebook)

For young patients leaving the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's, it's been a long-standing tradition to leave with one (or maybe two or three) hand-knit finger puppets, to cover up their bandages after getting blood work done.

It's a tradition that a well-meaning group of eager knitters want to make sure lasts for a while.

"For me, it's so reflective of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that there's a box of finger puppets for little children, right?" says Denika Philpott.

There's people that are actually knitting, like, 100, 150 of these finger puppets.- Denika Philpott

Philpott saw a Facebook post about a shortage of finger puppets at the children's hospital, and copied that same message to share on her own Facebook page.

Philpott's post reached more than 1,000 people within a day, she said, so she decided to start a Facebook group called Knitted Finger Puppets for the Janeway for people who wanted to contribute.

Within a few days, more than 600 people had joined.

A few little piggy puppets. (Knitted Finger Puppets for the Janeway/Facebook)

"I think it's imperative that we, as this tight-knit, amazing Newfoundland and Labrador community, that we pull together and make sure that this never becomes an issue again," Philpott said.

"People are so helpful and kind."

While Eastern Health says it doesn't have a shortage of finger puppets, it certainly "appreciate the kind gesture of those who seek to make any donation for the benefit and joy of children who receive care there."

Last week, there were three garbage bags full of finger puppets dropped off at the blood collection centre.

Denika Philpott says she's happy to co-ordinate dropping off finger puppets at the Janeway. (Denika Philpott/Facebook)

'People helping people'

Philpott's children didn't ever have an extended stay at the Janeway, she said, but she herself is a cancer survivor.

She also has a niece who was born with a rare kidney disease, who has since died, but who "literally lived at the IWK in Halifax."

"I know what goes into the care of a patient or someone that's going through a bit of a difficult time, and especially children," Philpott said.

Yes, buttons are OK to use. Those puppets will go in the bin for older children. (Knitted Finger Puppets for the Janeway/Facebook)

"I know people that work there and they just pour their heart and their soul into what they do. I always say, anything with a baby or a child or a puppy, I'm all on board."

Neither Philpott nor Eastern Health know exactly how long the finger puppet tradition has been around, but Philpott said some of the people in the group who are now in their 50s have posted their memories of leaving the children's hospital with a puppet in tow.

The level of support has floored Philpott, who joked that keeping up with the group is like a "part-time job" for her now.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in finger puppet form. (Knitted Finger Puppets for the Janeway/Facebook)

"There's people that are actually knitting, like, 100, 150 of these finger puppets. And they're everything from sheep to cows to little simple ones that I'm going to knit — because I'm just a basic knitter," she said.

Eastern Health said anyone with finger puppets made and ready to donate can drop them off at the Janeway blood collection office.

"People helping people, parents helping parents," Philpott said.

"There's nothing that can replace that, there's no value, there's no price on that. It's just invaluable to me."

A box of more than 150 finger puppets ready to donate. (Knitted Finger Puppets for the Janeway/Facebook)

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show and CBC Newfoundland Morning

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