Costa Mesa-based charity contending for votes to win grant

Knots of Love, which donates handmade caps to chemotherapy patients, is vying for votes next month for a grant worth up to $250,000.

Beginning Sept. 6, the Costa Mesa nonprofit will compete alongside nearly 30,000 other charities eligible to receive grant money from the Chase Community Giving 2012 program.

Chase media contact Eileen Leveckis confirmed that the charity to receive the most votes could be awarded up to $250,000. An additional 195 top charities could receive anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on voting results.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly called the organization Knots for Love.

"This would help the organization an unbelievable amount," Knots of Love Executive Director Christine Fabiani said Thursday. "We're a 100% donation-based nonprofit. We give all our caps away to the people who need them most, completely free of charge.

"Our costs are $10,000 a month to operate, though, so winning anything from this would go a very long way for us and allow us to do so much more for them."

Fabiani, who learned to knit when she was 6 years old from her grandmother, founded Knots of Love in 2007 after a career in the dental field.

After making a few caps for her two sons, Ian and Geoffrey, she piqued the interest of a longtime friend who had survived cancer. The friend commented how helpful the caps would have been for her during her chemotherapy treatments.

"The first cap I made was terrible; it was huge and gigantic and couldn't even fit a bowling ball," Fabiani said. "But they got better, and pretty soon I had made dozens. My friend, who had had cancer, saw them and suggested I donate them. When we couldn't find a place to donate them to, we decided to create one ourselves, and Knots of Love was born."

To date, the nonprofit has donated 128,000 caps to adults and children suffering from life-threatening illnesses at more than 400 hospitals and treatment centers across the nation. It has an estimated 800 knitting and crocheting volunteers from across the country, many of whom have lost loved ones to cancer. The volunteers produce, donate and ship nearly 3,000 caps a month.

"We could easily ship 4,000 a month if we had the extra help," Fabiani said. "More volunteers are always welcome!"

Though all donations of time and materials are appreciated, Fabiani stressed that volunteers need to follow the guidelines for yarn and patterns on, as patients who receive the caps have sensitive skin and require certain brands of extra-soft yarn.

"We're a real hands-on charity, no pun intended," Fabiani added. "I make sure I call everyone personally to let them know where their caps went and that they made a difference."

Kris Sirca, a 29-year bilateral breast cancer survivor and a three-year volunteer with Knots of Love who also serves on the organization's board, knows what kind of impact these caps have on people suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

"I know that the loss of hair is horrifying, particularly for a woman," she said Thursday. "It's an outward sign that there's something wrong with you. Cancer can make you feel very forgotten. So I think that if you have to go through something that traumatic, you deserve to look cute.

"I strive to make caps that are stylish and chic. I think buttons, flowers and ribbons add a certain panache."

A lifelong Fullerton resident, Sirca said that the organization helps the volunteers as much as it does the cap recipients.

"It's a deeply fulfilling thing to do and very rewarding," she said. "Even though I'll never meet these people, it's comforting to know we're warming one head at a time. Winning this would enable us to carry on that mission and reach so many more people suffering."

Fabiani — who has knitted more than 3,000 caps herself — said she is hosting a Knitting In Public event from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Peet's Coffee & Tea, 894 Avocado Ave., Newport Beach.

Fliers for the voter-based contest will be available and all avid knitting and crochet enthusiasts are encouraged to attend.

The Chase program's voter-based contest is open until Sept. 19. Its goal is to benefit smaller and local 501(c)(3) charities with operating budgets under $10 million.

Supporters are encouraged to visit the program's Facebook page to vote. Chase customers can also vote by logging on to their personal accounts through the bank's website.

Knots of Love has also produced a YouTube video to showcase its organization and to bolster voting.

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