TULALIP — When the Knolla family stopped by the Tulalip Cabela’s store on the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 26, they weren’t expecting to be greeted by members of the Arlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1561 and given applause by the surrounding crowds, but those who attended that day’s brief ceremony wanted to show their support for the family through its struggles and sacrifices.
Lt. Cmdr. John Knolla is a 27-year Navy veteran currently stationed on the USS Nimitz, now home-ported at Naval Station Everett. His wife of 23 years, Elissa, has had to cope with his frequent deployments, including Iraq. Both John and Elissa have had to cope with the challenges of raising their 12-year-old son Daniel, who was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis at the age of 4, before being additionally diagnosed with indeterminate colitis, osteoporosis and Frey’s Syndrome a few years later.
While Daniel’s medical condition has left him in near-constant pain, fishing remains one of the few activities that he can engage in regardless of how well he’s feeling at the moment. As such, it was especially disappointing to the family when John’s recent relocation to this area created a scheduling conflict that left Daniel unable to go salmon fishing with Jeremy Wade of the “River Monsters” TV show, courtesy of the Dreams Come True Foundation.
“Our employees had the opportunity to meet Daniel and his mother while they were shopping at this store for a canoe that the Dreams Come True Foundation was purchasing for him,” said Katie Sanford, the Tulalip Cabela’s marketing manager. “When our managers heard Daniel’s story and his dream to go fishing, they decided to make his dream come true.”
Cabela’s partnered with Jim and Jennifer Stahl of NW Fishing Guides to take Daniel and his family on a fishing trip down the Snohomish River on Saturday, Sept. 29, immediately before John’s next deployment.
“I was about to turn around when I looked behind me and I saw my mom telling me to keep going,” said Daniel Knolla, who was unsure how to respond to the chorus of cheers he and his family generated at the Tulalip Cabela’s on Sept. 26. “I’ve been fishing for as long as I can remember. I love the scenery and everything else about it. I don’t like fish dinners, though.”
“I’m so grateful that all of these people have taken the time to come together and show us the warmth of their hearts,” Elissa Knolla said on Sept. 26. “This is just a great opportunity for us to get away from all of our appointments and focus on the positives. Being outside in the beauty of nature is very good. Plus, we can do this even when he’s not 100 percent. Some days, he’s great, but some days are rough. He had to miss school today because of his arthritis.”
The Stahls described themselves as honored to give back to Daniel Knolla and other children in need in the community.
“We try to pass on knowledge and passion for the sport, because these kids are the ones who will carry it forward,” Jennifer Stahl said.