It started with a childhood obsession with knitting and crocheting—but now charity Good Omen Goodeze is bringing comfort to the Canberra community one stitch at a time.
Providing personalised hand-crafted comfort ‘Goodies’ to patients and loved ones in the Canberra Hospital, as well as community connection via knitting days and workshops, Good Omen Goodeze (GOG) is dedicated to helping those who need a little bit of warmth and comfort in their lives. And it’s happening every Friday afternoon during school terms at The Link.
Officially named a charity in 2020 to recognise the creativity and mental health benefits that they provide, it was the knitting of a pink pussyhat beanie that really helped GOG get off the ground—an unusual start for a unique idea.
“My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, and each year I had been doing the Mother’s Day Classic,” says founder Mary Liondi-Barlow.
“That year she went through chemo and lost all of her hair and I thought, ‘let’s make some beanies to wear to walk around the lake’…it was a pussyhat beanie.”
“I was just loving it, so I started knitting pussyhat beanies for all of my girlfriends and everybody I could think of….then it got to the point where everyone was like ‘we’ve had enough’,” she adds laughing.
Working through the scraps of wool left over from her childhood and knitting endless beanies, Mary decided she wanted to donate the growing collection to charity to help Canberra’s homeless in the cold.
“When I went to look online, I couldn’t easily find where to donate them but then I remembered that one of the mums at the school where I work, Kathleen, worked at the hospital,” she says.
Explaining to Mary that her donations could save lives in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Kathleen asked Mary to knit beanies for the hospital.
“Kath told me if you are in an accident or you’ve gone through trauma, your body starts to shut down. It can’t warm itself and you lose a lot of heat from your head, so beanies can save lives” says Mary.
“I was like ‘Really?!’ so I just started sending them to her, as many as I could make.”
Spending every spare moment knitting beanies, scarves and quilts, Mary’s friends soon joined her, and word spread through the community. Mary soon found herself hosting knitting groups and as the nurses and doctors asked for more, comfort dolls for adults and kids joined the donations pile.
Finally, Mary realised the group needed a name. Inspired by one of the first beanies she donated, GOG is named after the good omens Mary’s goodies bring.
“Very early on, when I knitted one of my first scrappy beanies, one of the patients in the hospital named Chris was very ill,” says Mary.
“His sister walked into the room and saw that beanie and instantly it changed from that clinical area…she walked in and said, ‘My goodness that is such a good omen, my grandad had a beanie like this and now he’s looking down on Chris’…Her brother was so ill they didn’t expect him to survive and when she saw that beanie she felt that positivity and strength coming from her grandad.”
“Chris still keeps the beanie, and he always comes in and talks to our group.”
Now creating warmth and comfort for those in need one stitch at a time, GOG has flourished with over 380 members and growing. Running various community projects—including a Community Threads Project and a Stitching for Mindfulness Project—as well as afternoons of knitting and crocheting in Ginninderry, Mary says in her wildest dreams she never thought it would go this far.
“It’s been a crazy ride for me! I never expected anything like this.”
“There are a lot of great knitting and crocheting groups out there…I think the difference and why ours is growing is that people want to be doing something for their community.”
“My goal for GOG is to share the skill of crochet and knitting, give comfort to those in need, and spread the joy our members get from being creative and giving. The beautiful community we’ve created at GOG nourishes us all and keeps me moving forward.”
Interesting in getting involved?
Join GOG for an afternoon full of knitting and crocheting at The Link this September. Running every Friday afternoon during the school term, no matter if you’d like to try your hand at something creative or just want to connect with other members of the community, it’s a great opportunity to make goodies to donate to patients at Canberra Hospital or take home and enjoy for yourself.
For more information, visit goodomengoodeze.org.au