LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A graceful three-story testament to a teenager's serene spirit was officially dedicated to her memory Saturday.
The Center for Building Hope, 5481 Communications Parkway in Lakewood Ranch, was surrounded by friends and family members of Leanna Knopik. At only age 16, Leanna died from myocarditis, a rare viral infection of the heart.
The ceremony dedicated Leanna's Way to honor her beauty, talent and kindness.
"Today is really about honoring this amazing young woman through her giving and kindness," Michael Klauber, local restaurateur, said.
Klauber played a big role in the project by leading fundraisers and events that helped raise $150,000.
"My wife, Terri, and I wanted to make Beth Knopik's dream to have this walkway for their daughter happen," Klauber said.
The walkway is the perfect place to reflect and contemplate, said Leanna's father, Steve Knopik.
"When you're going through something like we went through or if you're a patient at this center, having a place like this is really great," Steve Knopik said. "Having support helps but you need a place to target your inner peace and allow that peace to come from within and this is a great place for that."
Leanna's Way is 33 feet high made from LPE, a dense Brazillian hardwood, in consideration of Florida's climate. For those who cannot climb to the top deck, there are video monitors on the ground to allow access to the view. There are benches and seating at all levels of the building.
Contributors to the project included Willis A. Smith Construction Inc, Carlson Studio Architecture, Stantec Inc., and DWY Landscape Architects.
The building sustains great architecture and provides serenity with nature. But most of all, it creates the peace and joy that Leanna embraced, friends said.
"You can picture her standing up there," said Mikayla Klauber, a close friend of Leanna's.
The Center for Building Hope supports cancer
patients, caregivers and family members.
Steve Knopik believes it is the perfect place to have made Leanna's Way a reality.
"It's great -- it's the perfect setting for this," Knopik said.
Leanna's legacy lives on and her heart has touched people everywhere.
"Leanna's passing has brought all of us together and has brought us to value life even more," family friend Kem Lindsay said.
Patients at the center can enjoy the peacefulness of Leanna's Way while tuning in with nature.
According to Leanna's boyfriend, Joshua Simon, Leanna was always connected to nature and enjoyed her time to reflect and think outside.
This building allows patients to meditate, relax and reflect in its green and quiet setting.
"She brought smiles and happiness -- having this place is just really special," said Michelle Konecny, a Sarasota crew member with Leanna.
"This is a beautiful contemplated walkway allowing people to come contemplate and enjoy the scene," Klauber said. "It's a real healing place."