CLARENCE, N.Y. — It's a school bus driver's job to be safe and on time, but Patricia Reitz goes the extra mile for the students on her bus.
Students, teachers, faculty, and even parents know her at Miss Patty. And they know if you ride her bus, you'll get a special gift — a crocheted winter hat. She's worked for the Clarence Central School District for nearly three decades, and during that time, she's made more than 7,000 hats.
"She cares. She cares about her students," said third grade teacher Deborah Bosworth. "Any student that I've had that has been on Miss Patty's bus gets a hat, and they also get a friend. Miss Patty is one of the favorites."
So why did Miss Patty start making and giving out hats? It was simply because a student saw her making one and liked it. When she first learned to crochet, she'd work on items while waiting for students to get on the bus.
"The one boy gets on the bus, and he goes what are you doing? I said I'm making a hat. He said that would be great going down ski slopes at Holiday Valley. I said what color would you like? That started everything," said Reitz.
She specializes in crocheted Santa hats, but she makes other hats too — typically two colors of a student's choice, topped with two tassels.
"It makes me feel great that I can give them something to wear because a lot of the kids don't have the Santa hats," said Reitz.
Fifth grader Wesley Kwiatek still has his Santa hat from kindergarten.
"It just stands out because it's like knitted. It's just knit in like a good way. You just can't lose it," said Kwiatek.
Miss Patty uses her own money to buy yarn and other supplies, though she does get gift cards from students. She uses those to buy — you guessed it — more yarn. She also makes blankets, scarves, and hair scrunchies.