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Stafford teen knits to help

Alexander Burlingame recently taught himself how to knit so he could make beanies for chemo patients. His teachers allow him to knit while in class, as long as he pays attention to the lesson. Stafford, VA. Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (Marie Sicola/The Free Lance-Star).


More than 30 cancer patients will find the winter weather a little less drafty, thanks to the efforts of a Stafford County teen.

Mountain View High School student Alexander Burlingame just learned to knit this fall, and he has already crafted dozens of hats. He donated most of them to cancer patients in Virginia and Maryland, and sold some hats to make money for yarn.

The effort started on a lengthy bus ride to a cross country meet in Williamsburg. One of Alexander’s teammates, Ben Sorensen, broke out a round plastic loom and started knitting a beanie.

Alexander was intrigued, so Ben showed him how to make his own hat.

Alexander finished his first hat on the way to the race. And he was hooked on the hobby.

“As soon as I made the hat, I knew I wanted to do something with it,” Alexander said.

The 18-year-old International Baccalaureate student was already studying social entrepreneurship as part of a yearlong project. He was especially interested in TOMS, the shoe company that donates a pair of footwear for every pair sold.

Alexander first thought about selling the hats for charity but then decided to give the hats directly to chemotherapy patients who had lost their hair.

He and his cross country teammates started knitting beanies, often breaking out skeins of yarn during class. Alexander said that he still pays attention—and that the knitting actually helps him concentrate.

His IB teacher doesn’t bat an eyelash when the loom comes out while she’s teaching.

“I love that our boys do the knitting around here,” laughed Lisa Renard–Spicer.

It takes about an hour and a half to knit one hat, and Alexander often knits during bus rides to cross country and track meets and while watching television, although he doesn’t often get a chance to relax that way. In addition to  intensive IB classes and running, Alexander is active in the faith-based Young Life club and at Crossroads Church in Fredericksburg.

Renard–Spicer, his teacher, said he embodies the International Baccalaureate’s mission to create “active, compassionate and lifelong learners” in a genuine and sincere way.

Alexander, who moved to Stafford last year from Germany, hopes to attend the University of Richmond next year and to study philosophy and religion. He is the youngest of three children. His brother is now on a mission trip in Thailand and his sister is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

He doesn’t plan to hang up his knitting loom any time soon.

“I’ve always found joy in helping others,” Alexander said. “And if one beanie can make someone happy, then it’s completely worth an hour and a half of my time.”

Amy Flowers Umble:   540/735-1973