109-year-old Alfred “Alfie” Date, the oldest living Australian, had just moved into an assisted living facility in New South Wales when two nurses asked him to knit sweaters for the Phillip Island Penguin Foundation.
Date has been an accomplished knitter for over 80 years, completing his first project, a sweater for his nephew, in about 1931. He continues to knit for friends and beanies for premature babies.
The penguin sweaters are not a fashion statement, though. The Penguin Foundation launched the Knits for Nature initiative to save Little (Fairy) Penguins, a species found only in Australia and New Zealand from oil pollution.
Since oil spills happen, the sweaters are meant to save the penguins lives by preventing them from ingesting toxic oil when they try to clean their feathers. Oil also causes penguins’ feathers to mat and separate, which exposes them to the cold. Furthermore, the oil causes the penguins to be less effective hunters.
A patch of oil the size of a thumb nail can kill a little penguin, but with the help of these types of initiatives, after one spill in 2001, nearly all 438 affected penguins were saved, according to Yahoo News.
The “little jumpers drive” is no longer asking for donations, but the results were knitters from around the world taking up their needles for these cute creatures, including the oldest man in Australia.