After losing her only child to sarcoidosis six years ago, Gahanna resident Betty Knueven-Ferris wants to bring awareness to the disease by holding a candlelight vigil and balloon release.
"This is the first year I've been able to do anything," she said. "I feel bad about that. It has been too hard. It's still very difficult."
Bobby Knueven, a 1993 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate, was 31 years old when he collapsed and died in January 2007 from sarcoidosis while playing basketball.
Sarcoidosis is a chronic disease of unknown cause that is characterized by the formation of nodules, especially in the lymph nodes, lungs, bones and skin, according to the National Institutes of Health. It leads to organ damage in about one-third of people diagnosed with the disease.
"We knew he had something passive on his chin," Knueven-Ferris said. "They said it would go away on its own. He went to a dermatologist. We didn't know there was a problem with it."
She said sarcoidosis enlarged his heart.
"It was throughout his body and went to his heart," Knueven-Ferris said. "It was awful. Since then, there have been several athletes die of the same thing."
She said she wants people to know the disease can be a killer She also wants to memorialize her son.
Knueven-Ferris said Bobby Knueven was very athletic, enjoying basketball and golf.
"He always played on rec leagues," she said. "He also loved bulldogs. He had two bulldogs, Haley Bear and Funnyface."
Knueven had worked six months in information technology for Abercrombie & Fitch when he died. He previously worked five years for Ohio State University. He also worked for the Gahanna Parks & Recreation Department when he was in high school.
Knueven also is survived by his father Robert Knueven of Delaware.
Abercrombie & Fitch honored Knueven with a memorial bench near the replica gristmill at Creekside.
"His (bench) is the closest to the building, across from the replica mill, Knueven-Ferris said.
"I love Creekside, and he loved it, too," she said.
In conjunction with April being Sarcoidosis Awareness Month, purple balloons will be released and candles lighted for Bobby and all who have or are have had the disease.
The vigil and balloon release are scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Creekside, 117 Mill St.
Participants are asked to gather at Bobby's bench at Creekside.
"Please join me in remembering Bobby and in my attempt to raise awareness of sarcoidosis," Knueven-Ferris said.