Jewish Journal

Put On Your Happy Hats

by David Landau

Posted on Mar. 9, 2000 at 7:00 pm

Sheri Schrier, the founder of Happy Hats for Kids, emerges from the hospital office/dressing room. She is ready to romp, decked out in a four-foot-high -- and almost equally as wide -- red and white striped stovepipe hat from Dr. Seuss' "Cat in the Hat." "Anybody want a hat?" she asks.

The event is the Happy Hats Valentine's Day at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. Like Bartholomew's hat in another Dr. Seuss story, the hats keep multiplying and appearing on the heads of all the children of the kingdom. On this day, the kingdom is the fourth floor cancer ward.

Also on-hand to pass out hats is Marvin I. Schotland, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF). Sporting a neatly-creased gray business suit and a foot-high "Cat in the Hat" stovepipe, Schotland is here to see first-hand the children's pleasure as they receive their hats. Over the past three years, JCF, which is the largest central clearinghouse of Jewish philanthropy in Southern California, has provided Happy Hats with two $10,000 grants, part of which is making today's event possible.

Schrier got the idea to do Happy Hats for Kids in 1991 after losing her father, grandmother and younger brother to cancer. After being around seriously ill children, Schrier, a hat designer, saw that a little laughter on the cancer ward went a long way.

Since its inception, over 100,000 hats have been handed out to sick children; Happy Hats is now at 20 hospitals in six states, with a working budget of $65,000 a year, and growing. Schrier's husband, Gene, helps design and pattern the hats, while Schrier solicits all funds and organizes local prisons and senior centers to sew and knit the hats. Schrier and her husband are now in the process of looking for a national sponsor to fund their work.

"It's one thing to do the funding," says Schotland, his face tired and serene, "It's another thing to be here and experience the children's joy."

For more information about Happy Hats for Kids or the Jewish Community Foundation, call Sheri Schrier at (310) 326-8409 or JCF at (323) 761-8700. -- Charlotte Hildebrand Harjo, Contributing Writer

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