Ripbeams warms hearts and heads with handmade beanies

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By Sean Kennedy

 Melissa Rippy’s dad was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in September 2017. He passed away Dec. 27 after a long life and happy marriage of 45 years to his wife. Following his passing, Melissa felt she had to do something to honor his legacy.  

“I heard his voice come into my head to do something like this,” Rippy said. “He hated seeing bald kids in the hospital. It really broke his heart during treatment.”

And so Melissa, who grew up admiring and following her dad’s example in charitable service, created Ripbeams, a now rapidly-growing initiative to provide hand-stitched beanies to cancer-stricken children across the country. The name Ripbeams, draws from the family name, Rippy.

 “I literally built a flier that day. It was Saturday, and when I came in Monday morning, one of my clients had brought in 50 beanies,” Rippy said. “She got us started with 50, and then it just started going crazy.”

According to Rippy, within weeks she started receiving beanies and donations from all over the country. Residents of a senior center in her hometown, Payson, Arizona, sent 600 beanies. A family friend in Florida sent 150. Ripbeam’s first volunteer, Christine Bird, has made more than 170 beanies and continues to send more from her new home in New Mexico.

“It’s been really overwhelming how much support we’ve gotten,” Rippy said, “I think my dad would be really happy to know how many children we’ve been able to help.”
The rapidly-growing support compelled Rippy, who works as an insurance agent by day, to turn Ripbeams into an official nonprofit. Since its inception less than a year ago, the organization has begun partnering with knitting and crocheting clubs, hospitals and local organizations to increase its capacity to get more beanies to more children across a greater number of states.
“My goal? I’d love to be in all 50 states,” said Rippy, who estimates that Ripbeams beanies now reach children in 13 states.

Despite working to increase its national reach, Ripbeams’ efforts haven’t stopped locally. The Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce named it Brighton’s community organization of the year. It is working with local businesses to get the community involved.

Lisa Garbett of Creative U partnered with Ripbeams to host a class in September that taught people how to knit beanies on a loom. The class was so successful that people asked for another, which is scheduled for Oct. 20. Interested participants can sign up by calling 303-654-0373. Other plans in the works include fundraising drives and more knitting courses, which Rippy says she is trying to get hosted at the Brighton Recreation Center.