Volunteers unleash Broncos baby rush

Dozens of blue-and-orange caps for tiny future fans
Feb. 17, 2016
Morgan and Kenny Hicks with baby MacKenzi
Parents Morgan and Kenny Hicks with baby MacKenzie in the NICU during the Feb. 5 cap distribution.

Forty-eight hours before the kickoff for Super Bowl 50, a group with busy hands and fingers helped University of Colorado Hospital bring a new generation of Denver Broncos fans into the fold.

They’ve now got the gear: some 150 blue-and-orange caps and headbands knitted and crocheted in a matter of days for infants in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Birth Center. Like any victory in sports – a Broncos Super Bowl win, say – the cap rush was a team effort. This one was fueled by UCH staff and volunteers from both the hospital and the community.

A few of the team members brought the caps to the two units Feb. 5, fitting tiny fans while their parents looked on and cameras rolled and snapped. It made for some memorable moments for unit staffers and parents.

“The patients were so pleased today,” Rhonda Hallman, RN, RNC-OB, a Birth Center charge nurse, wrote in an email shortly after about 60 caps were distributed on the unit.

Improvised play

Julian Sanchez
Julian Sanchez shows support for Broncos in the Birth Center.

The event had more in common with an audible at the line of scrimmage than a set play. Jenny Ricklefs, manager of Volunteer Services at UCH – a lifelong Broncos fan – said she and a friend were watching the Broncos’ AFC championship game against the New England Patriots when the idea of making Broncos-themed baby caps struck.

Her friend had previously made baby caps for donations to other hospitals; Ricklefs convinced her it was UCH’s turn.

“I thought we could support the Broncos at the same time we made caps for donation for our hospital,” Ricklefs said.

At halftime, the two ran to a Michaels crafts store to pick up blue-and-orange yarn, and crocheted away through the second half of the game, which ended with the Broncos securing a berth in the Super Bowl.

Julian with his parents, Brittany Chavez and Jorge Sanchez
Julian with his parents, Brittany Chavez and Jorge Sanchez, pose with (from left) UCH administrative assistant Phyllis Hoskins and community volunteers Dorothy Arnold and Anita Johnston. The trio contributed many knitted and crocheted caps.

“By the end of the game, we had two hats each,” Ricklefs said.

The idea grew from that point. Ricklefs talked with two UCH volunteers, Judy Oakes and Mary Parks, who teach knitting, crocheting, and sewing to women with high-risk pregnancies who endure long hospitalizations, often in isolation.

“They teach women different skills so they can be productive during long periods of waiting,” Ricklefs said.

Oakes, Parks and other volunteers immediately pitched in to contribute to the cap supply. Many of them suggested that Ricklefs also talk to Phyllis Hoskins, an administrative assistant with the Facilities, Design and Construction Department. Hoskins has knitted caps, clothes, and scarves for the NICU and Emergency Department for many years and has an extensive network of volunteers who regularly pitch in to help.

Hoskins contacted Margaret Arnold, a former UCH employee who appears at the hospital as Mrs. Claus each holiday season for a NICU gift-giving celebration that Hoskins organizes. Arnold and Anita Johnston both pitched in along with volunteers from their church, St. Michaels of the Archangels.

“We had about a week,” said Hoskins. “Some people crocheted, some knitted, some worked on a loom.” She saw the pay-off when she helped to distribute the caps.

“The nurses were definitely excited,” Hoskins said.

Hoskins, Arnold and Johnston
Hoskins, Arnold and Johnston display some of their work in the lobby of the AIP.


Savannah Steinke with her baby, Chase Steinke
Savannah Steinke with her baby, Chase Steinke, who blissfully dreams of a Bronco victory in the NICU.

About the author

Tyler Smith has been a health care writer, with a focus on hospitals, since 1996. He served as a writer and editor for the Marketing and Communications team at University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth from 2007 to 2017. More recently, he has reported for and contributed stories to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Colorado School of Public Health and the Colorado Bioscience Association.