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How to Improve the Lives of Cancer Fighters in Western United States

How a single gift of a chemo cap led to a new knitting charity–and how Knitting Pals by the Bay continues to make lives better over 20 years later

In 2001, during a visit from Jenny Carp’s best friend, she learned about her friend’s twin sister’s Jane’s battle with cancer. In particular, they discussed the chemo treatments Jane required.

Since Jenny is a knitter, she did what most knitters would do in that situation: she knitted Jane a chemo cap before her friend returned home.

On Jenny’s website for the charity she founded, Knitting Pals by the Bay, she reflected on this one chemo cap and how it changed her perspective:

[I] never [knew] how valuable a treasure I had given her, until [Jane] shared with me how grateful she was to have the cap, because she was finally warm and comfortable.

After realizing how one cap could make a positive difference in the life of a chemo patient, I decided to take action.

As a knitting instructor, Jenny had at the ready a potential army of assistants in her new mission. And from that moment, a knitting charity was born!

The Beginning and Growth of Knitting Pals by the Bay

Jenny asked her knitting class if they would be willing to help her make chemo caps and donate them locally. Not surprisingly, they jumped at the chance to help. Their first two deliveries took place in July 2002.

Knitting Pals by the Bay has grown explosively since then! Their first deliveries were made in the San Francisco bay area (thus the name). But today, they have a whopping 7 branches, covering not only California but also Washington state and Arizona! Their tireless volunteers serve 15 hospitals and clinics, 6 cancer support groups, and 4 children’s hospitals.

And if you’re looking for sheer numbers: as of this writing, they’ve donated 70,161 knitted caps for cancer patients of all ages!

Thank you Knitting Pals for the cancer caps. I feel so blessed to know I have all these angels taking care of me through my chemotherapy treatments. I sleep in one cap (my head was recently shaved) and the other I wear every day. I receive many compliments on your lovely caps. Cancer is an unforgiving disease, it takes and takes. So glad to have you angels who give and give!

I picked up a light blue knit cap from the Women’s Resource Center today. It is so soft and warm, making my hair loss from chemotherapy much more bearable. As I start my second cycle of treatment, I am touched by the love and care in creating this cap and encouraged by the support of all the Knitters by the Bay.

I am lucky to have an adorable cap knitted by you. It’s multi-colored and so cute, plus keeps my head warm and as I’m currently on a “ beauty low” it makes me feel stylish. I’m going through breast cancer treatment. Thank you for your solidarity. This is so hard, sisters-in-the-suffering. The hands are the expression of the heart.

Quotes from thank-you notes sent by recipients of caps knitted by Pals

Looking for more ways you can help people fighting cancer? Take a look here!

How You Can Be a Knitting Pal by the Bay

The first thing you’ll want to do, if you’re interested in knitting for the Pals, is to visit their How to Become a Pal page. Here you’ll find all the guidelines you need to knit caps, as well as a link to their Branch Page. You’ll also find the email address that you are strongly encouraged to use for any questions you might have.

On the aforementioned branch page, you’ll find a list of their locations, including the parts of the United States they serve, and the email addresses of their coordinator. I highly encourage you to email either Jenny (at the Become a Pal page) or the branch coordinator before you begin knitting! This will give you the best chance at ensuring that your knitting goes to where it is most strongly needed.

You’ll find a pretty chemo cap pattern, designed by Jenny, right here. You can find many other beautiful patterns at Knots of Love’s website, as well as on the fabulous Knitting with Schnapps blog.

I can personally attest to the joy of knitting chemo caps. I knitted one for a friend of mine a few years ago myself, and it meant the world to me to know that I was helping a friend fighting cancer. If you’re looking for an easy way to help cancer fighters, you may not need to look any further than Knitting Pals by the Bay.

Knitting Pals by the Bay - knitting chemo caps in western US
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