With the 2012 Special Olympics Winter Games due to touch down in chilly (and some not-so-chilly) wonderlands across the country, Special Olympics U.S.A. is seeking to outfit every athlete, coach, family member, volunteer, and supporter in a cozy homespun scarf as a symbol of solidarity and community. Sponsored by Red Heart Yarns, the aptly named “Special Olympics Scarf Project”, invites knitters and crocheters to donate a handmade scarf to one of 39 participating Special Olympics programs from Alabama to Wyoming.

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The project began as an opportunity to provide a welcome gift to athletes participating in the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Boise, ID. A call went out for 5,000 Red Heart blue-and-white scarves, but by Games time, nearly 60,000 scarves had poured in from the United States and 12 other countries.

Knitters and crocheters who are interested in supporting the project have until March 2012 to send in their scarves.

After the program went national in 2011, knitters and crocheters all over America—including schoolchildren, church groups, and a 102-year-old old woman from Wisconsin—sent in more than 26,000 handmade scarves for the Games that year. Now, with a $50,000 contribution from Red Heart Yarns, the Special Olympics Scarf Project plans to harness social networks like Facebook and Twitter to share information, progress, and photos.

Knitters and crocheters who would like to pay tribute to the Special Olympics athletes’ determination and passion have until March 2012 to send in their scarves. Details about yarns, colors, and state-specific deadlines, as well as a list of free patterns, are available on the project’s website.

+ Scarves for Special Olympics