Winter time is a season of gloves and scarves. Wrapping a soft warm knitted scarf around your neck is like being wrapped in a hug.

That's what the Palmerton Library Knitting Club is hoping the recipients will be feeling when their 38 two-tone blue scarves they knitted are wrapped around the necks of some very special athletes.

The scarves will be worn by over 300 Special Olympians, 150 coaches and 1,500 volunteers at the Pennsylvania 2011 Special Olympics Winter Games being held Feb. 13-15 at Johnstown, PA.

"We're always looking for projects to help other people," said Diane Danielson, a member of the Knitting Club and Palmerton Library's director.

To date, the club has knitted 173 blankets for Project Linus (blankets delivered to local hospitals and ambulance associations), 75 hats for premature babies born in Lehigh Valley hospitals, and several hats, scarves, mittens and afghans for the Turning Point of Lehigh Valley, a shelter for battered women and children every year before Christmas.

Sharon Bonser, Carbon County Special Olympics athletic coordinator, learned about the 2011 Special Olympics USA Scarf Project and asked the Knitting Club if they would like to knit or crochet scarves for the Special Olympians and the club eagerly put their needles to work.

"This project was just what we were looking for," said Danielson.

All the scarves are a specific color and pattern specified by Special Olympics. This year it is Red Heart Yarns 886-Blue and Red Heart Yarns 512-Turqua, in a rib crochet striped pattern they got off the project's website.

The club has completed 38 scarves to date and handed them over to Chris Anthony, training coordinator for Carbon County Special Olympics, who will see that they are forwarded on to the Winter Games in Johnstown. He said that as of Jan. 5, a total of 225 scarves have been received statewide.

The scarves have become a symbol of unity, support, compassion and empowerment, as the Special Olympics athletes, coaches, families, volunteers and supporters wear them with pride, knowing they have become part of the Special Olympics family.

It all began with the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Boise, Idaho. The scarf idea was to provide a gift of welcome for the athletes. They were requesting 5,000 Red Heart delft blue and white scarves. By the time of the Games, they received nearly 60,000 scarves, from every state in the U.S. and from 12 countries around the world.

In 2010, Special Olympics Idaho carried on the tradition with their own state scarf project. Again the knitting and crocheting communities opened their hearts and put their needles and hooks to work. Over 2,100 Red Heart cherry red and gray heather scarves arrived from 48 states in just five weeks for the Idaho State Winter Games, and were presented to the athletes, coaches, families, volunteers and supporters during the Opening Ceremony for all to wear throughout the Games.

This year, the Special Olympics USA Scarf Project is spreading its wings and going national. There are 33 participating Special Olympics Programs to support, including right here in Pennsylvania. The Special Olympians will be competing in alpine and cross country skiing, figure and speed skating, snowshoeing and floor hockey events.

Carbon County has two Special Olympians going to Johnstown in February to compete on the state-level. Both will be competing in the floor hockey event.

Anthony thanked the Knitting Club for their amazing donation of 38 scarves and for their support.

If anyone would like to learn more about the project, log on to www.scarvesforspecialolympics.org or contact the library at 610-826-3424.

The Palmerton Library Knitting Club meets the first and third Mondays from 6-8 p.m. and invite anyone to join them.