Miles of smiles

Members of the Miles of Scarves organization gather weekly to knit scarves to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

On Friday nights, a group of about 15 Henrico girls can be found sitting in a circle with balls of variously colored yarn sprawled around them. This designated knitting night has become a tradition for the girls known as Miles of Scarves, a group created in 2009 that knits scarves to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The group recently was named the 2014 Bob Carter Companies Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Group by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

“When I started this group, I had no idea that this would grow this much,” said Meredith Polk, the founder of Miles of Scarves. “This award is an incredible opportunity for us to share our story and spread awareness and it’s something that we all love to do.”

Polk started the group at the age of 10 when she read an article about knitting for charity and became inspired to do something that would make a difference. Already familiar with MS because of her parents' involvement in the Bike MS150 each year, she knew that MS was the society she wanted to help.

When word spread about Polk’s efforts, other girls in the community, including her neighbor and friend, Emily Harrison, became involved.

“Meredith asked me if I wanted to knit, and I said yes, and we’ve been doing this ever since,” said Harrison, who admits she wasn’t the best knitter in the beginning. “I thought it would be fun to do this with my best friend, but over time I started to meet so many people and see that we were changing lives and that our actions were making a difference.”
The Miles of Scarves organization will
be honored next week by the
Association of Fundraising
Professionals.

Since 2009, Polk has involved nearly 30 girls between the ages of 9 and 16, knitted hundreds of scarves and donated more than $20,000 to the MS Society. The money raised by MOS is used to sponsor rest stops for the Bike MS Ride, fund research, assist families with gifts during the holidays and help provide college scholarships of $2,000 to high school seniors who have MS or have a parent with MS.

The group's focus is to help those living or affected by MS as much as possible with all aspects of their lives, Polk said.

MOS works closely with the MS society to decide the best places to allocate the money it has raised, find events in the area to take part in and gain ideas for new projects.

The scarves range in colors and styles and sell for $10 to $30, with the most popular being the bright orange versions in the official color of MS. The scarves are sold at craft fairs and MS Society events throughout the year. Much of the yarn used by the girls of MOS is donated by churches, girl scout troops or other organizations in the community.

MOS has grown tremendously over the past few years and even has inspired the formation of similar groups, such as Metres of Scarves in Canada, which was started after its founder received a MOS scarf.

In 2012, Polk was invited to speak about MOS at the National MS Society’s Annual Conference, and women who met Meredith there are now knitting scarves for MOS.

“I don’t think of MOS as something I have to keep up with – it’s become such a part of who I am and I really love doing it,” said Polk. “I want to keep knitting, I want it to grow, and I’m really proud of all the work that we have done as a group and that more people are learning about us and our efforts.”

Those efforts will be honored when the girls receive their philanthropy award at the National Philanthropy Day Honors: A Celebration of People and Impact event Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C. National Philanthropy Day Honors recognize outstanding leadership, commitment and generosity in philanthropy, and MOS is one of six finalists that will be honored.

“Meredith and I have been jumping up and down all week and are just so excited about this award," Harrison said. "We never knew it would become this huge. People are proud of us, and we like being charitable and giving to others.

"To see what we’re doing is making an impact is such an amazing feeling.”
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September 2017
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