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Turlock, Pitman Key Clubs join forces for breast cancer awareness
Students help local group knit gifts for cancer patients
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Chicks with Sticks members Susan Chavez and Jen Greenstreet work on knitting projects at Raley’s on Thursday. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN

The friendly rivalry between Turlock High School and Pitman High School is notorious around town, but on Thursday evening the Pride and Bulldogs put their differences aside to come together for a common good: breast cancer awareness.

The two schools’ respective Key Clubs — student-led community service groups — have joined forces with a group in Turlock whose goal is to help the thousands of women across the country diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Aptly named Chicks with Sticks, they do so through the creation of Knitted Knockers — special, handmade breast prosthetics for women who have undergone mastectomies as a result of their cancer battles.

Every other week, members from the two Key Clubs join Chicks with Sticks in creating not only Knitted Knockers, but blankets, hats, scarves and other items meant to comfort those battling the terrible disease. On Thursday, the Key Clubs donated yarn to Chicks with Sticks that they collected from their own campuses and other high schools throughout the area, like Merced, Golden Valley, Livingston, Atwater and more. The students also received cash donations that were combined to purchase a Joann Fabric gift card for Chicks with Sticks to use.

THS student Lauren Edh, who organized the Key Clubs’ involvement with Chicks with Sticks, said she noticed the group’s booth at the Turlock Certified Farmers Market and knew she wanted to get involved.

“This is going on right here in our town, and so many people have never heard of them,” Edh said. “I wanted to shine a light on a local organization that’s not as big as it should be, because it’s for such a good cause.”

Chicks with Sticks began in 2016 as a crochet and knitting group focused on creating crafts and gifts for the Emanuel Cancer Center of Turlock. Shortly after forming, organizer Susie Wurm Marshall heard about Knitted Knockers and knew the group should get involved. In just three years, Chicks with Sticks has supplied Knitted Knockers to 3,000 cancer patients in nearly every state and grown from just nine members to nearly 30.

PHS sophomore Antella Sargis said the cause is one that means a lot to her, as her grandmother is a breast cancer survivor.

“My grandma is a huge fighter and she’s one of my greatest role models, so I just wanted to help out in a way that had to do with the pain that she had,” Sargis said. “This will bring so much joy to people who have breast cancer.”

The yarn donation from the Key Clubs, which consists of about 60 skeins, is enough to make gifts for 30 to 50 patients. Each prosthetic takes about two hours to knit or crochet, said Marshall, meaning that completing a pair of Knitted Knockers takes around four hours. To make the prosthetics, a special, 100 percent cotton yarn is used to create patterns that are printed out from the Knitted Knockers website, Women tend to prefer the lightweight Knitted Knockers to the heavy, hot and expensive silicone prosthetics.

Tristan Allen, a junior at PHS, lost his great-grandmother to breast cancer and said volunteering alongside Chicks with Sticks is the perfect Key Club activity because it’s all about giving back.

“We can come here with two or three hours of our time and selflessly give ourselves up for a good cause. I think that encompasses everything that Key Club is: everything you can do for others and putting others before yourself."”
Pitman junior Tristan Allen

“We can come here with two or three hours of our time and selflessly give ourselves up for a good cause. I think that encompasses everything that Key Club is: everything you can do for others and putting others before yourself,” Allen said. “That’s so special and characterizes the people here.”

Allen added that it was nice to not only see Key Clubs from other schools throughout the region come together for Chicks with Sticks, but also that Turlock’s two public high schools could unite for a worthy cause.

“Although there’s kind of that friendly rivalry mentality between us, Key Club is that middle ground and a grey area where we’re both trying to help out the community in the best way we can,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve seen more and more of this working together to make the community better because overall, it’s the Turlock community — not the Turlock High School community or the Pitman community. It’s Turlock as a whole and that encompasses both high schools.”

Between the donation and the presence of Key Club members at their meetings, Marshall said the students bring a much-needed energy to Chicks with Sticks.

“We love it. It’s youth,” she said. “They truly bring something special to our group. They light up the room.”

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Amy Schmit, Dena Gabriel, Antella Sargis, Lauren Edh and Tristan Allen are Key Club members from both Turlock and Pitman high schools who have donated both time and supplies to Chicks with Sticks — a group that knits gifts for cancer patients around the country. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN