In the small corner of Rebecca Dotson’s apartment, you’ll find heap of yarn and blank stationary.
"We donate handmade hats and handwritten letters,” said Dotson.
Notes filled with words of encouragement and a warm, stylish hat make a small gift of comfort for those facing serious illnesses.
"I wanted it to be intimate when someone received it, and know that it was made with care and love,” Dotson said.
818 Ministries started from a very personal journey for Dotson. Just two years ago, her mother faced breast cancer.
“I can now say she's a survivor, but during that time I started knitting and crocheting her some hats,” said Dotson.
She learned to knit and crochet young and used the talent to bring her mother a little joy during a tough journey.
One day, in the treatment center as her mother received another round of chemotherapy, Dotson’s perspective was changed.
“It’s a memory etched in my brain forever,” she said.
“One woman my mom sat across from in chemotherapy, she was sitting by herself, had lost her hair, didn't have a hat, just seemed really alone,” said Dotson.
"I don’t know if that lady had a daughter making her hats to make her feel beautiful during a really rough time, I don't know if she had cards in the mail waiting on her, and I certainly don’t know if she knew the Lord," she said. "That really wrecked my heart.”
Ever since that day, Dotson has written and crocheted. She’s picked up volunteers who help donate hats and notes. She’s dropped them off into a hospital worker's hands, and sometimes distributed them herself.
"I got to take several of the UT football players to East TN Children’s Hospital with me, we got to go in patients rooms and give the hats out," she said.
Her team even includes people who have experience the other side.
"I was diagnosed a month before I turned three with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia,” said Catelynn Ellis. “I remember my hair would fall into my cereal, and I would start crying.”
Ellis, now a volunteer with 818, knows that a simple gift can bring a big impact.
“A part of you is gone. I think these hats are homey because they can show there is still a part of you, you can show off your personality,” Ellis said.
This year alone, 818 has donated more than 300 packages and is hoping for more.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
818 got its name from Romans 8:18, a verse in the Bible that reads ‘For I consider the present sufferings of this life aren’t worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.'
The verse was special for Rebecca and her mother during her mother’s journey fighting cancer.