He taught himself this skill in prison. Now he’s employing it to brighten the lives of cancer patients

( CNN) With loving hands and a dainty hook, a craftsman is constructing the world a little warmer by crocheting colorful caps — almost as colorful as the tattoos on his muscular forearms.

“About a year ago, I initially posted something about constructing chemo hats and friends shared it, ” the 42 year-old told CNN. He supposed his post might raise a little local interest in the knit caps. “I got a lot more than I anticipated.”

Now the Madison, Wisconsin, resident ships his caps to cancer patients all around the world, free of charge.

“I was addicted to Percocet and Vicodin. I went to a pharmacy and told them to give me the pills, ” he said. “That was rock bottom.”

During his three years behind bars, Stapleton learned crocheting. It was comforting for him, so he spent a lot of time learn how to do it.

“They had a donation program for inmates to make things for children in need, ” he said. “I started that style. I taught myself.”

His caps mean a lot to those who get them

Stapleton, who manages a warehouse, stands well over six feet tall and weighs 230 pounds. But he’s all heart.

“I pick up my son from daycare after work, ” he said. “I do chores around the house and feed the animals.”

His menagerie includes a puppy, two gerbils, three cats, four tortoises, a fish and a reptile called a bearded dragon.

“In between period, I crochet, ” he said.

Wendy Oren of Edgerton, Wisconsin, is fighting ovarian cancer. She wears one of Stapleton’s caps like a suit of armor.

“You can’t put it into words — what person thinks is the littlest thing. And for him to not even know me, to make sure I got a hat, it was just a wonderful impression, ” she told CNN. “I felt supported and loved.”

But Stapleton is quick to deflect kudo for his efforts.

“I’m just a guy attaining hats, ” he said. “The people who are battling cancer are the heroes.”

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