American Heart Assoc. volunteers knit the hats to raise awareness for heart disease and birth defects.

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CHICAGO— Starting Monday, all babies born at more than 30 Chicago-area hospitals will be given red hats in support of the American Heart Association’s “Little Hats, Big Hearts” program.

AHA volunteers knitted and crocheted more than 18,000 hats for the project, which aims to raise awareness for heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans, and congenital heart defects, the most common type of birth defect in the country.

The hats will be distributed during the entire month of February, which is American Heart Month.

According to the AHA, 40,000 American children are born with a heart defect each year. Congenital heart defects are structural problems with the heart that are present at birth. They result when a mishap occurs during heart development soon after conception and often before the mother is aware that she is pregnant.

Chicago hospitals such as Prentice Women’s Hospital, Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Rush University Medical Center and University of Chicago Medicine are involved with the project.

The “Little Hats, Big Hearts” program started in Chicago back in 2013. The first year, 300 hats were distributed to nine hospitals. Last year, volunteers from all 50 states and six countries sent in more than 15,000 hats, which were distributed to about 20 hospitals in the Chicago area. Due to the popularity of the project, “Little Hats, Big Hearts” has now spread to more than 30 states and more than 300 hospitals across the country.

For more information, visit the program’s website.

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