Summer Search needs you (and you could win an excellent prize)

Last winter, my blog readers came through for me (again) in such a huge way. It was the first Black Bunny Fibers fundraiser for Summer Search, an amazing nonprofit program that helps highly motivated high school students get into college, graduate from high school, and succeed in college. Since Mr. Black Bunny Fibers has worked with the group longer, and now sits on the board, I will let him tell you about his experience with Summer Search Philadelphia.

Like many people who live in a good school district in the Philly suburbs, I find the news about the Philadelphia public schools heartbreaking.  A variety of factors have left most of the City’s schools with a level of resources and staffing that would cause mass revolt and street protests in any suburban township.  If you don’t live in the area, this recent New York Times article will give you a sense for the latest crisis.

The fact that I’m a product of the Philadelphia public schools (Roxborough HS ’83) makes the sorry state of the District even more personal for me.

So about 3 years ago I joined the Philadelphia board of Summer Search — an amazing nonprofit that works with Philadelphia high school students  from challenging backgrounds.  Each year we partner with a group of public and charter schools (where more than 75% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch) to help us assemble a “class” of about 30 sophomores to join the program.  Through a combination of one-on-one mentoring, life-changing summer trips, college admission and financial aid counseling, and a “bridge program” that stays in touch with the kids during their first two years of college, about 85% of Summer Search Philadelphia’s students graduate from college with a 4-year degree.

This is in a city where only 10% of low-income students ever graduate from college – an appalling statistic.


I attended my first Summer Search event in 2010 (the graduation ceremony for that year’s high school seniors), met and spoke to some kids from the program, and was immediately hooked.

Some background:  Summer Search is a national organization that was started in 1990 in San Francisco.  In addition to Philly (its newest office), it has locations in the Bay Area, Seattle, Boston and New York City.  The name refers to the trips the participating students take as part of the program – typically an outward bound/wilderness endurance-type trip between their sophomore and junior year and then an international trip that has a public service component between junior and senior year.  Before joining the program, our typical student has only traveled to Center City Philadelphia a handful times during their lifetime — and never left the county or state.  Imagine how transformative a month of whitewater rafting and camping in Colorado can be for these students.  Or a month in Guatemala living with a host family and helping to construct a community center.

summer search 2

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article recently about a Summer Search trip in the Appalachians.

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What sets the organization apart is how we recruit the students and the mentoring they receive during their first 3 years in the program.  When we partner with a school we’re not necessarily looking for the academic high achievers.  Instead we ask the faculty to recommend kids with potential that might be overlooked but could achieve great things with some help from the program.  Mostly we’re looking for kids with the basic character traits (grit, resilience, initiative) to overcome the challenges life has dealt them and, with a boost from Summer Search, finally break the cycle of poverty.  The students admitted to the program are then paired with a professional mentor who meets with them weekly to help them work through not only the day-to-day family and school issues they face but also learn how to cultivate relationships, gain insight into their family situations (and how they can make different choices), and how to navigate the challenges in their lives.

In short, Summer Search isn’t just a career or college readiness program – it changes lives, one person at a time.  It’s labor intensive, relatively expensive per student, and probably not scalable to thousands of kids.  If this stuff were easy to do, hundreds of nonprofits would be doing it.  But Summer Search has figured it out and it works.

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If you meet a Summer Searcher when they enter the program as a sophomore and then again almost 3 years later when they graduate to the college bridge program the transformation is nothing short of incredible. Please take a few minutes to read some of the individual stories here.

So if you’ve managed to read up to this point and you’d like to support a worthy cause — please consider donating. Any amount will help.

Okay, it’s Carol again.

Here’s how the fundraiser works. You donate directly to Summer Search Philadelphia by going to this link AND (this is important!) selecting the Philadelphia office (it says “Please direct my gift as follows” and you tick the Philadelphia oval).  Then email a copy of your online receipt to me at carolATblackbunnyfibersDOTCAHM. To be eligible for the raffle, you must make your donation by October 3rd, at midnight. Please note that the end of Summer Search’s fiscal year is September 30th, so if you can squeak out your donation before the first of October, that’s a big help for them. (But as long as you donate by October 3rd, you’ll be in the rafffle!)

For each five dollars you donate, you’ll get one chance to win a prize. And my friends in the yarn industry have been amazingly supportive by offering prizes. Here’s the updated  list:

1. $100 gift certificate to Black Bunny Fibers

2. Signed copy of Sock Yarn Studio, plus a skein of Black Bunny Fibers sock yarn.

3. An assortment of knitting books, donated as review copies by their publishers (photo to come).

4. A free PDF pattern by lovely Lara Smoot.

5. Two free PDF patterns by Tanisknits (the fabulous designer/author Tanis Gray).

6. A yarny prize from the Miskins at Buffalo Wool Company (who make totally amazing yarn from bison fiber)!

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7. A yarny prize from our pals at Westminster Fibers (think Rowan, Regia or Schachenmayr — all gorgeous)

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8.  A prize from the wonderful folks at Kirkwood Knittery!


9. Winner’s choice of five PDF patterns from Black Bunny Fibers.

10. A PDF copy of Big Foot Knits, by Andi Smith (read about it at the Cooperative Press website)

smith cover

11. A free one-year digital subscription to KnitEdge magazine, courtesy of Cooperative Press!


12. A bee-yoo-tiful yarny prize from Happy Fuzzy Yarn (located in delightful Ann Arbor, Michigan, my old stomping grounds)…


happy fuzzy

13. A yarny prize courtesy of amazing Barb Brown!

14. Gorgeous handpainted yarn from Moose Manor Handpainted Yarns!

moose manor

15. A US $50 gift certificate to Patternfish, where you can choose your downloads from thousands of gorgeous patterns by many designers and yarn companies, including exclusives like Dale of Norway!

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16. A sample of Wrapture wool wash, courtesy of Kristin Ohmdahl and Eucalan!

wrapture small

17. A lovely prize from Lost City Knits (purveyor and creator of handdyed yarns including offerings from small farmers – their alpaca is to die for).

lost city logo

18. Three Reflections pattern booklets from the uber-talented Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton, of Hamilton Yarns!


19. Yarn and a sample garment courtesy of our friends at Cascade Yarns!

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20. A beautiful and functional Yarn Jar ™ from Lancaster Yarn Shop (which has the added bonus of coming from Intercourse, PA)

yarn jar

21. A supercute “Know Your Cuts of Lamb” tote bag, courtesy of the delightful Lorilee Beltman.


22. Two gorgeous patterns, courtesy of designer Anna-Lena Mattison

23. A copy of “10 Secrets of Laidback Knitters,” by Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza, donated by designer Kimberly K. McAlindin (whose gorgeous design is the gold sweater on the right-hand side of the cover!)



24. The first download of my oldest kid’s first published knitting pattern PDF, which will include this hat:


25. Signe copies of Indie Socks and Toe-Up Socks, terrific books donated by the wonderful designer Chrissy Gardiner at Gardiner Yarn Works.

another gardiner

26. A sampling of yarns from the inimitable Alpha B yarns — one skein of each of her four bases:  Luxe B (fingering wt merino/silk), BFF B (100% superwash merino, fingering), Single B (100% merino, singles, fingering wt) and BFL B DK (dk-weight blue-faced leicester). Alpha B doesn’t have a website but you can find their yarns at fine emporia like Knit Purl in Portland, Knot Another Hat in Hood River, OR and The Tinsmith’s Wife in Comfort, Texas.

alpha b

27. A gorgeous skein of yarn (handyed/natural dye yarn) from Barbara at Spencer Hill.

28. Stunning yak/cashmere/bamboo spinning fiber (50g — enough to do a scarf) from Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts….

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29. A prize TBA from our lovely friends at WEBS!

30. A skein of sportweight yarn and a pattern from Mindy at Puff the Magic Rabbit!

31. A custom batt by the amazing Solly, son of spinner extraordinaire Loraine G!

32. Two sets (means two winners!) of three patterns from the Tallented StephCat (Stephannie Tallent, author of the brand-new Hitch! from Cooperative Press, along with California Revival Knits, a fabulous book).


Please show our wonderful sponsors some love by purchasing their fine products!  And please share this post on your blogs, Facebook, Twitter, wherever — spreading the word is a huge help, too.

And thank you all, so very much.




Photos of Summer Search provided by them and used with permission.



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