Caitlin Morgan is making a difference in the lives of families in need and has found a creative outlet for her own struggles in the process.
When a Port Orange resident's friend gave birth to baby that was premature by 15 weeks, weighing only 1 pound, 8 ounces, she knew she wanted to make a difference.
After all, Caitlin Morgan had been in the same position before. Her oldest daughter was also born premature, though she didn't need any time in the neonatal intensive care unit.
"I realized how truly blessed we are that she was so healthy,” Morgan said. “I knew I wanted to give back to that community in some way.”
She felt this was her chance. The Cuddlefish Charity was born.
When Morgan saw a Facebook post from her friend about crocheting octopuses for preemies, she immediately went to work. She did her research, found out the measures she needed to take to help keep the baby safe — like how to sanitize the octopuses — and made one for her friend's baby, as well as her two older sisters.
“It just seemed to blow up after that," Morgan said.
When her Cuddlefish Charity Facebook Page began getting more views, she included the pediatric intensive care units and cancer wards in her donation set. She said she wants to help patients with compromised immune systems, both adults and children, as they could benefit from her creations.
“Their compromised immune systems usually restrict them from having stuffed animals," Morgan said.
Morgan has found that making the octopuses, and other crafts like acrylic painting and wood burning, has also helped her. She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, severe social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
"Although this is a lengthy list, is also accumulates to a very creative crafty mind,” Morgan said.
It takes Morgan about 24 hours to craft a single octopus or jellyfish. Often, the crochet creations take longer so that she can sanitize and package them for the recipient.
Right now, Morgan only creates Jellyfish and Octopus “amigurumi,” or crocheted stuffed animals for her Cuddlefish Charity. Through her research, she has found that the tentacles resemble the umbilical cord, which is what causes the babies to grasp them instead of the medical equipment cords onto which the babies are attached. Morgan said she may include other amigurumi at some point, but currently she is only including these because of the tentacles.
“I love creating and making new things,” Morgan said. “Since I have began this journey of the Cuddlefish, a play on the term cuttlefish, I have used all proceeds of all my art to allow me to donate to families in need.”
Each Cuddlefish order allows Morgan to create three amigurumi. The order is sent out and the other two creations are donated to families or facilities that are in need. Morgan said 100% of the donations go into the product and there is no profit made.
She's not one for the spotlight, but Morgan was willing to speak out and share her charity in the hopes it would help reach at least one more family.
“That helped me push past my own fears and reservations and learn to handle my anxiety better to speak to people who could in turn connect me with those in need," she said.