Crochet queen Jo crowned a Teesside hero

April 14th, 2016

A Teesside ambulance worker who started a national charity crochet craze to make blankets and hats for new-born babies has been recognised with a Teesside Hero award.

Jo Owen launched Blue Light Babies in her spare-time just eight months ago but she now has 2,000 people crocheting for charity across the country.

The group has produced tens of thousands of crocheted items for new-borns across the country, while they have even set up drop-off points across the North-East where volunteers leave their crochet creations for Jo’s husband Dave and other volunteers to collect them.

It was only when bored at home after suffering a slipped disk that Jo came across groups on the internet who make clothes for premature babies in neonatal units.

She agreed to run a North-East group but within weeks her team of volunteers had gone nationwide and then overseas following an appeal on Facebook.

The charity group’s members have knitted and crocheted more than 500 blankets and hats for all of the region’s front-line ambulances, while they’ve also been asked to provide clothing for the area’s neonatal units.

And the neonatal unit at North Tees University Hospital has received over 500 pairs of bonding blankets, which are shared and swapped between mother and baby, assisting in the bonding process.

The Thornaby mum-of-two, who is an emergency care support worker for the North East Ambulance Service in Billingham, buys the wool out of her own pocket, delivering it to members who need it.

But her dedication to helping others regularly goes well beyond the call of duty.

Asked by one of her volunteers to help her daughter who had been a victim of domestic abuse, she organised collections of furniture, clothing and toys, hired a van and drove her donations to Sheffield to deliver the load to the young girl and her baby.

Then, having taken her trusty crochet hooks and half a suitcase of wool with her on a holiday to Morocco, she spent much of her break crocheting hats for the local street children.

And the group sent baby clothes to the Dominican Republic when hearing of the premature birth of a baby born to an English couple who were on holiday there.

Blue Light Babies have also provided blankets for elderly pilgrims to Lourdes, sent baby clothes for flood victims in Cumbria and supplied baby hats and blankets for the North East Children’s Christmas Hamper appeal.

On receiving a Teesside Hero award, presented by Phil Lyons of Stockton-based logistics firm InBond, Jo said: “I’m just blown away really. I never expected anything like this. It’s humbling and flattering but I just represent the group. Yes, I founded it but lots of people do the work.”

“It takes up every bit of my spare time. But I love making things. I unwind by picking up my crochet set. There’s nothing more therapeutic than a ball and a hook! The fact that the end product is meeting a need and helping people makes it so satisfying.”

Phil, who is a director on Foundation patrons InBond, said: “Jo is a truly inspiring lady who fully deserves to be called a Teesside Hero.”

He presented Jo with a trophy, £1,000 for Blue Light Babies and a meal voucher for Mohujo’s restaurant in Billingham.

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