Funky Hats Help Kids with Cancer
What teenage girl doesn’t get a kick out of a funky hat or two?
But funky hats are serious business for Dorothy Mifflin, 15, a Langlade County sheep producer. She diligently crochets “Funky Hats by Dorothy” to financially help kids and adults with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Dorothy taught herself how to crochet when she was 8 years old. After making clothes for her dolls and hats for her entire fourth-grade class, it wasn’t long before she was selling her crocheted caps and scarves. One day when she was 11 — with little fanfare but lots of heart — Mifflin decided she’d give all the proceeds from her sales to kids with cancer.
She raised and donated $1,000 for the late Jayden Williams Olds, an 8-year-old girl from Antigo who died in 2009 after a year-and-a-half battle with cancer. Dorothy raised $600 for an infant, also from Antigo, who died of a heart condition. She sold 26 hats at a benefit held for a young mother with brain cancer and donated the proceeds — $260. At present, Dorothy said she has $540 in the bank — and keeps adding to the sum as hats are sold. She said she’s waiting until someone needs it to give that money away.
When asked how many hats she’s crocheted in her young life, Dorothy can’t begin to offer a number.
“Hundreds and hundreds,” she answered.
The enterprising teenager likes to crochet for relaxation. She’s always thinking of new ideas for hats, including, she said, “a lot of crazy ones.” She takes orders for hats on her Facebook page, Funky Hats by Dorothy, with her farthest-away customer in Japan. She creates custom designs — for instance, crocheting suits for three little dogs that a woman wanted in her wedding.
Besides crocheting, Dorothy’s other love is her sheep. She has been raising sheep since she was 6. A member of Crocker Kids 4-H Club and FFA, she has been showing sheep since she was 7. This year was the fourth time she’s won the breeder’s performance award at the Langlade County Fair.
She explained that her grandmother, the late Dorothy Boothey, after whom she’s named, started her flock when she bought market-sale sheep to keep as pets.
“Kids were crying, thinking their sheep were getting butchered, and she felt sorry for them,” Dorothy said. “She was very generous.”
The can-do teen shears her own sheep, as well as those of five other people, shearing about 45 head a year. She also trims hooves and gives shots. She credits mentors Lloyd and Phyllis Burgener of Ram-Lin Acres near Richland Center with teaching her how to shear sheep, along with the finer points of showing and — her latest acquired skill — spinning wool.
Dorothy has a farm-related Facebook page, Mifflin Farm, where she shares tips on raising sheep. She said she enjoys helping younger children learn about sheep.
Dorothy, who will be a sophomore this fall at Antigo High School, has 23 head of Suffolk, Katahdin, Columbia and Lincoln sheep, most of which are registered. She uses the wool from her flock, plus shows breeding ewes. She shows at county and state fairs, and at Wisconsin Livestock Breeders-sponsored events.
She also shows at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson, Wisconsin, which will be held Sept. 11-13 at Jefferson Fair Park. She will also be selling hats and other wool items as part of the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Association’s “Wisconsin Wool Works!” fiber-arts booth.
All her hats and scarves are priced at $10, Dorothy said, to keep things simple. However she also gives many away free — to anyone who is fighting cancer or who knows someone struggling with cancer or another serious illness. The hats she gives away are in Jayden’s memory.
“We’ve gotten so lucky with this little girl,” said Debralee Mifflin, Dorothy’s mother. “She is truly an all-around good kid. My goodness, we are so proud!”
She and her husband, Thomas Mifflin, adopted their daughter when she was 16 months old. She is their only child — a child who her mom said is extremely generous and amazingly talented in terms of hat design, crocheting, sheep-showing and singing.
Debralee Mifflin, originally from Washington, D.C., also calls her daughter a cool snowboarder. The Mifflins are a downhill-skiing family, a sport Dorothy learned when she was just 4 years old. The trio skis three times a week on average during the winter, on weekends at Kettlebowl Ski Hill near Bryant, Wisconsin, and on weeknights at Granite Peak Ski Area near Wausau. They also go out west to ski; Thomas Mifflin is originally from a wheat-and-cattle ranch in Montana. The family lives on his grandparents’ farm near Antigo in northeastern Wisconsin.
Dorothy doesn’t just ski at Kettlebowl, but also sells her hats and scarves. Her mother said Dorothy also supplies a big bucket of yarn, crochet hooks and knitting needles for people who sit in the chalet while their children and grandchildren ski. They can use these materials for free and are encouraged to make-and-take a hat, or make and leave a hat for Dorothy to sell.
Her flock can’t keep up with her yarn needs, so she makes and sells wool dryer balls to earn money with which to purchase yarn. The felted dryer balls replace dryer sheets for softening laundry, and last 10 years, she said. She sells them at her mom’s antiques booth at an antiques show in Elkhorn, among other places.
“Some of the hats she whips out so quick,” Debralee Mifflin said. “Some she struggles with. She does it all in her head – no patterns.”
Dorothy said she enjoys seeing her hats on people’s heads when she’s out-and-about around town.
There’s no end in sight to the young shepherdess’s funky-hats project.
“I just like helping kids,” she said simply. “There are so many kids who have cancer and are so sick.”