Cyclist Al Knopik rides on in quest to help granddaughter

“It’s not about the bike. It’s about the disease,” Buckley’s Al Knopik says, paraphrasing seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

An avid cyclist, Knopik will participate in The Amgen Pacific Coast Classic.

He rides as part of Team Brooklynn, named for his granddaughter, who was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age 4. By the time she was 6, she was blind in one eye due to the disease.

During the six-day ride down the Oregon coast, which begins Sept. 10, Knopik, who has been named a 2011 honoree for the People’s Coast Classic, gets to tell Brooklynn’s story at each stop.

Brooklynn is in middle school now, a tough, young lady, her granddad said, but the disease makes him angry and he is determined to find a cure.

So he rides. He rides to raise money for research, programs and services. He rides to bring Brooklynn’s story to people who have never heard of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

“The research and the awareness programs of The Arthritis Foundation are very personal to me,” Knopik noted in an e-mail. “With your help, some day a cure may be found for the over 100 different types of arthritis.”

This year’s event is a family affair with Brooklynn’s mom and dad, Jeannette and Dave DeMint, and aunts Tracie Burtchett and Terrie Sundheim, all from Montana, joining the team.

In addition to covering miles along the Oregon Coast, The Amgen People’s Coast Classic hosts the Arthritis Road Show in the coastal communities along the route. The Arthritis Road Show is a series of free public education programs providing valuable information on signs, symptoms and treatment options for those with arthritis.

Featured speakers include Kori Dewing of the Department of Rheumatology from Virginia Mason Medical Center, radiology technicians who offer free bone density screenings and orthopedic clinic owners who present information on treatment options including physical therapy and joint replacement for osteoarthritis.

For more information, or to support the cause, visit http://tapcc.kintera.org/teambrooklynn and click on each team members name for their story or go to www.thepeoplescoastclassic.org and click on “The Cause” for other stories and facts.