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Sara Carson inspires Paw Hats design

'I was so inspired while seeing her perform in California, and this thing has taken off! These hat orders are going all over the world'

What is hand knit, ringed with dog paws, supporting animals at the Ontario Veterinary College and inspired by North Bay's most famous dog trainer?

It's the Paw Hat, and its designer is former North Bay resident Naomi Sanderson.

The idea came to her after watching her close friend Sara Carson perform on America's Got Talent.

It started last spring after Naomi made Sarah a red Canada 150 hat for the after-party at the popular TV show.

"I was so inspired by her at the finale and not giving up on her dream even though people had told her she wasn't going to accomplish anything," Sanderson said to BayToday.

Naomi had lost a lot of money knitting for another woman, who later refused to pay. She was feeling down.

Then she thought of Sara never giving up, and decided she would not either.

"I wrote to Sara and the Ontario Vet College Pet Trust in Guelph and thought 'What if I made the hats and donated part to the College and maybe I'll get some orders' and the Vet College wrote back and said it was a wonderful idea.

"I asked Sara if I could use the pictures of her wearing the hat and she said, 'Awesome idea, go ahead.' I said 'I can't rescue dogs like you do but I can knit.'"

She put some pictures up on Facebook and got some buzz going.

"And away it went. I got to six orders and I was getting choked up and it started to grow and next thing you know I had a hundred dollars to donate in the first week. Every week for the first four weeks I donated a hundred dollars."

Then she came in contact with the owners of a dog named Smiley, who was born with no eyes and was old and doing poorly. When Smiley died her husband Mike crafted a big cheque from bristolboard and Naomi donated her next $100 in memory of Smiley. She posted the picture on Facebook and Instagram. The Vet College shared in on their site.

"My phone went crazy. I got inquiries from all over the world wanting a hat.

"It's gotten crazy," Sanderson exclaimed from her B.C home. "I already have a hundred hats ordered."

The hat is $45 for adults and $5 from each one goes to the pet trust. Children's are $35 and for babies, $25.

OVC Pet Trust is Canada’s first charitable fund dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of companion animals. For over 30 years, OVC Pet Trust has raised more than $35 million towards innovative discoveries, healthcare and education at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph.

It takes about five hours for Naomi to knit each hat and she's been knitting furiously since Oct. 5, when she came up with the project.

When she's part way through, she sends a picture to the person ordering so they get an idea how it will look. You get to choose your colours, and all around the brim of the hat are 10 dog paws...hence the name Paw Hat.

Naomi has donated $400 to date and the next $100 cheque is almost ready. Quite a lot of North Bay folks have ordered, says Naomi, and received their knit Paw Hats, all inspired by Sara Carson. 

Her husband surprised her this week with tickets to fly to Toronto, rent a car and drive to North Bay for Christmas to see her folks.

"I've posted an event to have a photo op with all the supporters, paw hat owners, 'happy hatters' I call them, at the Gateway of the North sign in North Bay on Dec 26 at 10 a.m.

"I'm hoping to have a great turnout with signs and people wearing their hats to continue their support for Sara, the Paw Hat Project, and the Vet College. I was so inspired while seeing her perform in California, and this thing has taken off! These hat orders are going all over the world. She's inspired so many. It's pretty incredible."

You can contact Naomi on her Facebook page The  Paw Hat Project or by email at [email protected].

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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