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madbalmaceda

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Review for Knots of Love, Inc., Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

In the end of 2012, I had the idea to start a volunteer group at my place of employment. At the time, I was working for a large corporation and, although I loved my work and my colleagues, I felt unfulfilled. Something was missing. I thought that if I could come up with the right “cause”, I would not only feel more satisfied at work, but could help better the lives of people in need. Because of the demanding nature of my day job, I wanted to ensure that whatever volunteer work I chose, it had to be something I enjoyed and felt passionate about. A recent connection of events pointed the way. We’d recently had several baby showers at work and as usual (and as expected), I knitted a baby sweater as a gift for the mom-to-be. Whenever my handmade gifts were opened, it always resulted in a series of “oohs and ahhs” followed by a chorus of “I wish I knew how to knit.” Lightbulb! I knew that if I could find people who needed knitted goods, I already had the interest of potential volunteers to make these knitted goods.

The internet is a wonderful place. I searched and searched for just the right organization with which to affiliate. Something struck a chord when I landed on the Knots of Love page (www.knotsoflove.org). I read that it was an organization that used volunteers to hand-knit and crochet caps for people with cancer who are experiencing traumatic hair loss. The caps are distributed free of charge to hospitals and treatment centers throughout the country. The more I read, the more I realized that Knots of Love was the perfect match for my volunteer group. Thus began my connection to Christine Fabiani, the founder of Knots of Love.

Knots of Love was started by Christine Fabiani in 2007 in a spare bedroom in her family home in Newport Beach, California. Christine learned to crochet at the age of six, taught by her grandmother. Years later, a friend of Christine’s who was herself a cancer survivor, shared how uncomfortable wigs were for her and that she wished she just had a cozy cap to wear. Christine did some research of her own and discovered that at that time there were no organizations in existence whose purpose was to provide chemo caps to those in need. Seizing on the opportunity, Christine started such an organization herself. It all started with a batch of 25 caps that were made, packaged and delivered to local cancer patients who had lost their hair. The response was so gratifying that Christine reached out to family members and friends who might be interested in also knitting or crocheting caps for the cause. The more caps that were made and distributed, the more people contacted Christine conveying their need. And the more the need grew, the more volunteers showed up asking to help. By the end of the first year, over 12,000 caps had been made and distributed. And now, after almost 12 years, Knots of Love has made and distributed more than 460,000 caps to 550 distribution locations in the United States. The organization also recently began making and distributing NICU blankets and caps to babies in need. Knots of Love’s current goal is to provide 1 million caps and blankets for free.

Reaching this goal requires a lot. When I first started interacting with the Knots of Love group, I was astounded to learn exactly what was being accomplished by Christine and her volunteers given their limited resources. They examine and tag every single cap and keep a database of the 550 cancer centers and their needs. Based on these needs, the caps are packaged and shipped. All of this is done by just a handful of loyal volunteers who help pack and ship the caps. Sometimes there are special requests by cancer patients or their families for specific cap styles or colors. All of these requests are granted as well. And then, as with any volunteer organization, there’s the money – or lack of it. Over the years, I’ve learned of the organization’s constant struggle to raise enough money for the shipping of the caps. In the recent past, there have been several occasions when it seemed Knots of Love could no longer function financially. But because of the loyalty of the network of over 1,000 volunteers across the country, funds were always somehow raised to get through another month or two. In fact, my company colleagues held several fundraisers to keep Knots of Love afloat.

People frequently ask why we don’t just buy caps and send them to the patients. The answer is simple. It just wouldn’t have the same effect. When patients know that someone cared enough to take the time to knit or crochet a cap for them, it means so much more than just being given a store-bought head covering. It means people whom they’ve never even met care about them and understand their plight and most importantly, want them to survive! Every stitch in every cap is an action of pure love. Who wouldn’t want to wear pure love on their heads at the scariest time of their lives? And this is borne out by the cards and letters that Christine receives at Knots of Love. Family members write about how the caps helped their loved ones feel less embarrassed and less secluded and that they have more self-esteem. They feel less alone and really loved. If you’ve ever known anyone with cancer (and who doesn’t), you know how important it is for them to know that people are pulling for them. I’ll never forget one of the notes that Christine shared with the Knots of Love volunteers. It was from a breast cancer patient who said that losing her hair was harder for her than losing her breast. She was beyond grateful for the chemo cap given to her. Veterans have written saying how much it means to them to know that they have not been forgotten. And these same sentiments have been echoed over and over again. Men, women, children and their families and friends have all written to Christine with their stories of tragedy and their stories of hope - all of them simply grateful for a cap.

As a side note, my work with the Knots of Love organization and Christine Fabiani had quite an unexpected additional personal benefit. Throughout my interactions with my colleagues, I was regularly asked how I learned to knit and crochet. I was fortunate enough to have learned to crochet from my 6th grade teacher, Miss Klaus. She taught my entire class how to crochet as an afterschool activity. This was over 44 years ago! We were her first class in her entire teaching career. I thought it important that she know just how far-reaching her act of kindness went. And through the magic of the internet, I found her. That was the first miracle. The second miracle was that she actually remembered me. I shared my Knots of Love story with Miss Klaus and, well, to say she was thrilled is an understatement. I explained how my colleagues had rallied in support of Christine Fabiani’s Knots of Love organization. Miss Klaus shared with me that she always felt her first class did not benefit enough from her teaching because we were her first. But I reassured her that it was one of her greatest achievements because she touched more lives than she will ever know. The stars aligned for me, Miss Klaus and Christine Fabiani.

I retired from my company two years ago, but I still return regularly to lead the volunteer group I started. Only a few of these volunteers knew initially how to knit or crochet, but those who knew how taught those who didn’t and those who learned became the teachers, and so on. None of this would ever have been possible without Christine Fabiani’s passion to help others.

Role:  Volunteer