LAKEWOOD RANCH — When Leanna Knopik endured tough times, she would retreat to her swing set, alone.
Last summer, at age 16, Leanna died from myocarditis, a rare viral infection of the heart.
For her parents, Steve and Beth Knopik, mourning and the deepest reflection — the kind in which sadness and anger subside and a drive to push forward emerges — came while alone, as well.
At the Center for Building Hope in Lakewood Ranch, family and friends of Leanna dedicated a three-story, 33-foot-high contemplative walk and observation tower in her honor June 29.
The structure is made of Brazilian hardwood — strong enough to endure wet and windy summers — and overlooks 600 acres of water and lush vegetation.
Video monitors on the ground allow individuals who cannot climb the tower access to the view.
At the top of this shaded haven, tucked behind the courtyard at the Center for Building Hope, an organization that offers support services to cancer patients, caregivers and family members, individuals can find encouragement and peace.
“When you are going through a tragedy or challenge in your life, you need support,” Steve Knopik said. “The Center for Building Hope provides that. But, people also need to find strength from within. You only can do that when you have time to be quiet with yourself.”
Beth Knopik, a Center for Building Hope board member, had dreamed of building a safe place on the campus’ grounds that would provide that peace.
The center was not able to secure funds for the project until after Leanna died.
Friends and family asked the Knopiks, “What can we do?” But, the couple wanted nothing; they would get through this tragedy alone with memories of their daughter.
Close family friends Michael and Terri Klauber, however, began to raise money for a project in Leanna’s honor. They helped raise $150,000 through fundraisers and events.
Other contributors to the project included Willis A. Smith Construction Inc., Carlson Studio Architecture, Stantec and DWY Landscape Architects.
“The love and outpouring from the community has been unmatched and amazing, and now we all have a healing place and a place to honor an amazing woman’s legacy,” Michael Klauber said.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].