BENEFIT: Loia Feuchter helps others despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.
April 2, 2000
By ERIC CARPENTER
The Orange County Register
BREA - Loia Feuchter saw it as a perfect chance to show that a supposedly debilitating disease wasn't going to stop her from doing what she loves - providing for those in need.
Feuchter, 52, who has been living with multiple sclerosis for nearly 30 years, spent Saturday in a Brea conference room running the first-ever "MS Knit-In" to raise awareness about MS. And, in the process, to get a roomful of hobbyists knitting for local charities.
"I want to show that, while I may be in a wheelchair, look what I can accomplish," said Feuchter, who lives in Fullerton with her husband, Richard, and their daughter.
The event attracted about 70 knitters who spent the morning learning about MS, a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system and can cause muscle stiffness, vision problems and paralysis.
They spent the afternoon knitting for five charities, including caps for premature babies at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton and lap robes for Caring Companions of Fullerton.
Each participant was challenged to finish five craft projects for charities by June 24.
"This is fabulous ... and so is Loia," said Joyce Wyatt, who came from El Segundo for the Knit-In. "She has shown me she's gotten beyond what I thought was a fatal disease and still has the energy to help others. MS is secondary in her life."
Feuchter was awarded a $7,000 grant by Berlex Laboratories - maker of the MS drug Betaseron - to fund the Knit-In. Last year, Berlex named her a "Champion of Courage."
Feuchter was diagnosed with the disease in 1972, shortly after beginning her career as an elementary schoolteacher in Anaheim's Savanna School District. She openly discussed her condition with students and fellow teachers.
For years, the disease mostly affected Feuchter's balance, and she was using a cane by 1990. Two years later, she required a wheelchair.
By 1993, Feuchter felt it necessary to retire. She was 45.
"I remember thinking, OK, now what am I going to do?" she said.
The answer: knitting.
Feuchter had no problem using her hands and realized she could spend hours in productive crafting.
In 1995, Feuchter founded Knotty Knitters of Orange County to encourage other hobbyists to knit for charities. Since then, the group has crafted hundreds of caps, sweaters and blankets for babies, seniors, abused children and battered women.
The Knit-In is an ideal way, Feuchter said, to spread her message.
"I want more people and future generations to get involved," she said.
She was encouraged by 12-year-old Dana Williams of Yorba Linda.
"I took notes about multiple sclerosis this morning," Williams said.
"And I'm spending the afternoon knitting baby caps. I've learned a lot."
For more information on the Knotty Knitters of Orange County, call (714)