Facebook helping Oak View family cope with illness
By Amber Lennon
If you log on to “Nathan’s Journey” on Facebook, you’ll see a caption beneath the picture of 2-year-old Nathan Knupp that reads: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” It’s this kind of community attitude that organized Sunday’s barbecue benefit in Oak View. With more than 600 attendees, the Knupp family will take home $30,000 to put toward Nathan’s medical expenses.
Nathan was diagnosed with a glioma brain tumor in April of 2009, and since then the Knupp family has struggled to keep up with the cost of treatment. When Nathan’s mother, Marisa, decided to organize a fund-raising event, the response from the community was overwhelming. Volunteers and donations abounded, and all throughout the Ojai Valley, signs and fliers for “Nathan’s Journey” advertised the event.
“It was amazing,” says Ashley Meier, longtime friend of the Knupps, who also helped organize the event. “We had to use our back-up tickets because we ran out of the 400 bracelets we had.”
With the far-reaching capabilities of Facebook, even the greater Los Angeles area became aware of Nathan’s story when it was profiled on KCAL-9, adding to the extensive coverage of local media and radio.
The leverage of pre-event efforts was matched by the variety of activities and displays at the Oak View Park and Resource Center. Above rows of polished semi-trucks, vintage cars and old tractors parked on the grassy lawn, the long arms of crane trucks towered and seemed a candid symbol of the strength gathered to support Nathan and his family.
Marisa and her husband, Jestin, could be found embraced by friends and strangers, while Nathan played in the kids’ zone. Marisa said that the crowds and the heat were hard on Nathan, who was unaccustomed to so much activity. A motor home was parked on the premises, where the Knupps could retreat before emerging again to mingle.
Among the many faces Marisa saw that day was a 6-year-old boy named Aaron Easley, who has been living with a brain tumor since 18 months of age. Marisa was especially drawn to Easley and his grandmother when fate found them in the same hospital lobby while Marisa awaited her son’s diagnosis in 2009. Easley’s grandmother proved to be a well of information and support along this tough road.
“For her to be there was so awesome,” said Marisa. “She drove from Hemet with a special needs kid that just finished six weeks of radiation treatment.” Along with her donation, Grandma Easley wrote a note for Marisa that read, “We will fight.”
The silent auction boasted an array of items from local merchants ranging from tattoos to a pendant necklace, along with raffle items to accommodate a wide range of needs and wants, such as haircuts, tires and electronics. Nate Minkel, who donated a plasma television and his dirt bike, said, “One of the great things about living in a small town is seeing everyone come together with big hearts to give back to the community.” He added, “A bike is replaceable, a life is not.”
While people perused auction and raffle items in the shade, the smoke of La Salle’s BBQ signaled that lunch soon would be served. In the meantime, kids could be found cavorting in the Jolly Jump, getting their faces painted or twirling in front of the live entertainment. Tunes from Vaughn Montgomery on Wurlitzer piano were followed by singer-songwriter Ted Lennon, whose song, ‘Face Up,’ seemed to speak of the event with his appeal, “People, oh people, come on and do what you can!”
To cap it all off, the band Caught Red Handed spiced up the afternoon with classic rock covers as people meandered between big trucks, the beer garden and the food line for La Salle’s roasted meats.
Many attendees agreed that the community’s reward for doing their part along Nathan’s journey was when he made cameo appearances with his endearing smile. Said Meier, “He’s just such a happy little guy.”