Julia Patella '20: Her knits are a hit, and support an important cause

When Maggie Kudirka was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer at age 23, Julia Patella '20 thought of a way to contribute to her medical costs: selling hand-knit scarves.

Patella, who has starred in multiple Peddie Theater productions and is also an accomplished dancer, met Kurdirka, her dancing idol, at an event she performed at two years ago. “Maggie saw me perform my solo and asked me if I would perform in her benefit concert,” remembered Patella. “It’s an amazing event where professional and pre-professional dancers that she’s met along her journey come and dance for her. It’s a really inspiring event, so of course, I said yes!”

Julia Patella '20 Peddie

Patella starred in the recent Peddie Theater production, "The Diviners."

But Patella wanted to do more than perform in Kudirka’s benefit show. Thinking about how her classmates had begun to admire her handmade scarves, the self-taught knitter decided to launch a fundraiser.

“As soon as I realized that people wanted my scarves, I thought I would do some good with it,” said Patella.

Patella, then a freshman, began selling blue and gold scarves to the Peddie community during Peddie-Blair week (perfect for Blue and Gold Day and the pep rally, she said) and continued to sell scarves throughout the holiday season. By the time of Kudirka’s event in January, she was able to bring a sizable donation with her.

“She [Maggie] was so grateful and excited,” recalled Patella.

The Bald Ballerina

Kudirka’s career as a ballet dancer with the elite Joffrey Concert Group in New York City was put on hold after her June 2014 cancer diagnosis. Though her cancer is incurable, Kudirka undergoes treatments to keep it under control. She’ll continue to receive maintenance infusions every three weeks for the rest of her life or until a cure is found.

Through it all, the self-professed “Bald Ballerina” continues to perform. It’s just amazing to watch her,” Patella said.

Maggie Kudirka the Bald Ballerina

Maggie Kudirka continues to perform throughout her cancer treatments. (baldballerina.org)

Support for the cause

This is Patella’s third year selling scarves at Peddie, and despite the unseasonably warm weather, she is off to a great start.

“It’s been really successful so far,” said Patella. “Every year I get so much support from both the students, parents, faculty and staff who can relate to knowing how it feels to want to help someone in Maggie’s situation.”

Patella, who has danced since she was age four and currently trains at Princeton Ballet School and in Manhattan as part of the Koin & Co. Dancers, said that the hardest thing for Kudirka about her diagnosis was the possibility of not being able to dance again. “I want to support her because she’s out there continuing to practice her art and she inspires others to cherish what they have,” she said.

Julia Patella '20 Peddie

Julia Patella's '20 hand-knit scarves are available for $20 and one-hundred percent of the money raised is donated to Maggie Kudirka's medical care. While blue and gold are the most popular colors, Patella makes a variety of color schemes. For more information or to place an order, email jpatella-20@peddie.org.