This Saturday, June 29, our community will celebrate the life of a very special person by dedicating a unique memorial in her memory. Friends, family and the public are invited to celebrate the life of Leanna Knopik, with the dedication of Leanna’s Way, at the Center for Building Hope, 5481 Communications Parkway in Lakewood Ranch. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
A bright, shining high school student, Leanna died last summer after bravely battling myocarditis, a rare viral infection of the heart. Just 16 years old, Leanna excelled in her studies at Riverview High School, was actively involved with Sarasota Crew, attained her black belt certification in Tai Kwan Do, and was very involved with her church youth group and Young Life. Her passing was sudden and yet it drew our community together in a loving and spiritual way.
Since her death, Leanna’s parents, Steve and Beth Knopik, with the support of their friends, felt a need to create a legacy in Leanna’s name to inspire others and honor their daughter. “Leanna touched thousands of people with her story of bravery and faith,” said Beth.
One way to do that was to create a structure named ‘Leanna’s Way’, a contemplative walk and observation tower, located on the campus for the Center for Building Hope, where her mother is a board member. The tower is nestled among native vegetation, overlooking 600 acres of pristine Florida landscape. The idea is for ‘Leanna’s Way’ to be a place for prayer, meditation and renewal within its peaceful natural surroundings.
A group of Sarasota’s most talented architects, builders, engineers and designers offered their time and talent to help realize their inspiration. Fundraising for the project was led by local restaurateur, Michael Klauber, and his wife, Terri, who worked tirelessly until $150,000 was raised to complete the Knopik’s vision for their daughter’s legacy.
“Terri and I, along with our children, cherish our close friendship with the Knopik family. Like so many, we were shocked by Leanna’s sudden passing, but instantly felt the tremendous legacy of love she left with our family and community.” said Michael Klauber. “We were immediately driven to help fulfill Beth’s dream and support ‘Leanna’s Way’, which is now an everlasting precious gift to so many.”
Carlson Studio Architecture designed both ‘Leanna’s Way’ and the Center of Building Hope. Principal Michael Carlson noted, “Through the realization of ‘Leanna’s Way’, the Center for Building Hope is able to fully capitalize on the benefits of nature for health and well-being. The walkway design is intended to honor Leanna’s spirit by inspiring and fostering hope for people in their time of need.”
Stantec provided site planning and engineering services, site plan drawings, permitting assistance with Sarasota County and construction surveying services. Mike Bell, senior principal of Stantec added, “I am honored to be involved with any project at the Center for Building Hope, especially when we have the in-house professional capabilities to make a difference in the project. With a teenager of my own, I understand the desire to make this a special project for the Knopiks that will share the love of Leanna with all who visit this great community asset for many years to come.”
David Young, principal of DWY Landscape Architects, developed the landscape design for both the Center for Building hope and Leanna’s Way. “We are honored to have been a part of both projects,” Young said. “We believe the natural environment provides a wonderful opportunity for spiritual reflection and healing. Our goal was to develop an inspired design for both projects where visitors can take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of gardens and nature to begin the healing process.”
Refreshments will be served during Saturday’s celebration, and attendees will be able to purchase a commemorative brick in Leanna’s honor that will soon become part of the entry to ‘Leanna’s Way’.
A poem written about Leanna will be recited to the crowd and friends, family and all who attend will be able to express their thoughts and feelings by writing “Letters of Love for Leanna” which they can then attach to the structure.
“We are deeply touched by the community’s support. The contemplation walk and observation tower, beautifully constructed of ipe’ wood, will enhance the experience offered at The Center for Building Hope. ‘Leanna’s Way’ will be a place for meditation, reflection, relaxation and to simply be,” said Beth.
Partners in the Leanna’s Way Project include:
Willis A. Smith Construction Inc.
Carlson Studio Architecture
DWY Landscape Architects
For more information about Leanna’s Way and the Center for Building Hope:
Center for Building Hope offers free information, programs and services to cancer patients, caregivers and family members, while connecting them with others who are undergoing a similar experience. www.centerforbuildinghope.org