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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Stepping Toward a Cure

May 22, 2000|KATIE COOPER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OJAI — Raymond Gloeckner knew Sunday's cystic fibrosis fund-raiser was a 10K walk. But the 18-year-old Lompoc resident, who suffers from the genetic illness, ran the entire course in sweltering heat to make a point.

"Everybody said I couldn't," said a sweating and panting Gloeckner, who is receiving treatment for the disease at Ventura County Medical Center. "I wanted to do it to prove them wrong."

That fighting spirit was evident at a Sunday fund-raiser to find a cure. Organizers said it was the first walk/fund-raiser for cystic fibrosis in the county, timed to coincide with others across the U.S. last weekend.

The event's organizers, Ojai residents Steve and Cathie Knapp, lost their 16-year-old son, Danny, two years ago to the disease, which attacks the lungs and pancreas.

Inspired by Danny's love of computers and the Internet, the couple started a program shortly after his death to provide computers to chronically ill children. The project, known as Dan's Room, distributes donated computers to Ventura County Medical Center's pediatric ward and chemotherapy lab, as well as to homebound youngsters.

"It's the memory of my son that's going to help these other kids," Steve Knapp, 52, said of the couple's only child. "We know what other kids are going through and we want to make a difference."

When the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation offered to sponsor the 10K in Danny's memory, the Knapps didn't miss a beat.

"It's a way to keep Danny alive," said Cathie Knapp, a software trainer.

Friends and family, who made up the bulk of the 65 walk participants Sunday, said they are inspired by the couple's attitude since the loss of their son.

"I admire them for their outlook and how they can remain upbeat," said Shannon Turnage, a nurse who works for an Ojai internist who helped treat Danny. "Most people who lose a child get depressed and sort of withdraw."

Participants, sporting commemorative T-shirts, regularly doused themselves with water from plastic bottles as they walked the 6.2 miles from Libbey Park to Loma Drive near Highway 33 and back.

"It's so hot," said Cathie Knapp, as she wiped sweat from her brow. "But I knew it would be."

Temperatures under a clear sky hit a high of 101, matching a record set for the date in 1967. Most walkers were adults; a few were accompanied by panting dogs. Others stayed behind at Libbey Park to catch a bit of cool shade beneath the wide oak trees.

The event raised $10,000 from walkers and participant sponsors.

Organizers from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation said they plan to host another walk next year to fight the disease, the No. 1 genetic killer of children and young adults in the country. Experts predict a cure will be found in the next 10 years.

"But I think next year we'll move it to Lake Casitas, where it's not so hot," said Nicole Dugas, director of special events for the foundation. "But no matter what, we're staying in the area around here because of the Knapps. With them being in the community, they'll get people involved."

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