WILLMAR - Gretchen Kray is a humble and optimistic 10-year cancer fighter who has helped fill a gap in the local community by sewing hats for chemotherapy patients who lose their hair.

During Kray’s eight-cycle stint of chemotherapy from October 2013 into March of 2014, she lost her hair. In response, the American Cancer Society at Rice Cancer Center gave her a wig and a friend gave her a cloth hat and sold her a fleece cap to wear in the cold months.

“People kept asking me, ‘Where did you get that hat? I love it!” said Kray during an interview. “Since my head was always cold after I lost my hair, I figured I could make these hats for others who are in the same situation that I was in.”

Kray used the hat from her friend to create a pattern and began to make hats using donated and clearance-aisle fabric and thread and her sewing machine.

“These hats cost around $20 when you buy them online,” said Kray during an interview on Thursday. “I can make them for close to nothing and I have a lot of fun doing it. I have made seven or eight in a day before. But I’ve had to limit myself to making just three or four because I do have other things to get done during my days.”

When Kray finishes a batch of hats, anywhere from 20 to 35 hats, she takes them to Rice Cancer Center and leaves them there for chemotherapy patients to take and use.

“I’ve seen them around town fairly frequently now,” said Kray. “But I have never done this for the recognition or the thanks, just for the fun and to help people through a situation that I have been in before.”