Garner teen who beat cancer donates hundreds of knits to Duke Children's Hospital

GARNER, N.C. (WTVD) -- When the holidays come around, families have their own traditions.

For 14-year-old Garner resident Ryan Thomas and her grandmother, Helen McNeill, a tradition of donating hundreds of handmade knitted hats as part of their project called "Ryan's Hats of Hope for Little Warriors" to the Duke Children's Hospital has a special meaning.

"When I was three, about 11 years ago, I was diagnosed with leukemia which is a type of blood cancer," Thomas explained. After years of treatment, and battling and beating her cancer at Duke Children's Hospital, the donations are a way to give back.

"I know how it felt to go to that treasure box at the end of a tough visit and be able to grab something out like a hat or book or something," McNeill said. "We just want them we know when a kid gets one of these items, they're gonna get a smile."

McNeill knits items all year for the delivery.

This year, the two brought 160 hats, about 200 books and dozens of handmade pillowcases for patients. "It feels like home for me," McNeill said. "We spent a lot of time here at Duke. I feel great like I'm putting a smile on kids faces when they see these pillowcases and hats and books."

Thomas loves the tradition and is grateful to give back to the hospital that gave her so much.

"I do feel like I'm going to be doing this the rest of my life so I can pay my respects and show kids you're warriors you can do anything!" Thomas said.
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