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Sisters spread kindness, warmth one stitch at a time

Alla's beautiful knitted creations show the world she can do anything despite her disabilities, her sister says

While they sell their knitted creations online, a pair of Newmarket residents aren't in it for the money. 

Natalya Cherepanov and her older sister, Alla, are the duo behind Alla's Cozy Blankets. Cherepanov runs their Facebook page and handles the business side of things, while Alla does all the knitting. 

The adult sisters are originally from Ukraine. When Alla, who is older by nine years, was born, there were difficulties during the labour that doctors said would impact her development, Natalya said. Their parents were determined to help Alla learn and provide a normal life for her. While she said doctors were shocked by the progress she made when she was younger, her sister does not have the mental capacity of a typical adult. 

The family eventually moved from Ukraine to Israel. Natalya got married and had one son, then moved to Canada about 15 years ago, where she had a second son. Alla lived with their parents until their mother died about six years ago, followed by their father two years later. 

"She's a very family-oriented person. She felt very sad when our parents passed away," Natalya said. 

Because of that, after they passed, she said she knew she needed to bring Alla to Newmarket to live with her. When she told her husband this, he said, "Of course, it's no question." 

Throughout the difficulties she has faced, Alla learned to knit. After coming to live with her sister, one of the first projects Alla made was a blanket for her nephew. From there, she just kept knitting. 

Alla began knitting smaller blankets for cats and dogs, which is how they got started giving the cozy creations as donations. The sisters donated blankets to animal shelters including Don't Furry, Be Happy Animal Rescue in Newmarket. Then they donated some bigger sized blankets as raffle prizes for various fundraising events. 

At one point, Natalya said Alla told her she wanted to make money instead to help her with groceries and other bills, but she told her there were more important things. 

"Sometimes you need to do something for people not just to make money," she said. "Sometimes you need to give from your heart." 

It's not just blankets. Alla has also donated scarves to a man recovering from heart surgery, the Fill a Purse For a Sister Campaign, and Chase the Chill, where she has already given about 20 handmade scarves. 

Natalya said a friend suggested they create a Facebook page to showcase her sister's work. That's when Alla's Cozy Blankets was born. 

Cherepanov runs the page and regularly shows photos of her sister's beautiful creations. Through the page people can also place orders and buy blankets, shawls and scarves. Even then, Cherepanov, who works full time as an accountant, said their aim isn't to make money. 

"It's just for my sister to keep her busy and to show that people with disabilities can make amazing things. The disability's not a limit, she can do what she wants, she can express herself, and show people that she can do something for this world," she said. 

Elizabeth Keith

About the Author: Elizabeth Keith

Elizabeth Keith is a general assignment reporter. She graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2017. Elizabeth is passionate about telling local stories and creating community.
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