Old Lakeridge sweethearts team up for charity water race Aug. 4

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The family that paddleboards together has fun together. From the left are Kevin, Hailey and Steph King. They are training for Stand Up to NF on Aug. 4.Originally, Kevin King only wanted to contact his old flame from Lakeridge High School. He had not spoken to Kelly Peterson in 10 years.

But within a few minutes, King’s huge capacity for enthusiasm had turned into a bonfire, and he soon was making plans for Stand Up to NF, a stand-up paddleboard race that will raise money to fight neurofibromatosis. The paddling starts Aug. 4 on the Willamette River.

“That’s how my dad is,” said his daughter, Hailey. “I’m very proud of him. He is one of those people who likes to help people.”

Especially when he can combine it with his love of water sports. Then his enthusiasm becomes unbounded.

“I wanted some way to give in the same way things have been given to me,” said King, now a resident of West Linn. “Things have been falling into place on this. It is really blossoming into a beautiful thing.”

What Stand Up to NF is all about is summed up by its promotional poster, which features a photo of Natalie Peterson, the 3-year-old daughter of Michael and Kelly Peterson, who live in Los Angeles. Natalie is simply beautiful with her mass of golden curls, blue eyes and adorable smile. But the photo becomes heartbreaking when you find out that Natalie suffers from neurofibromatosis, a disease that causes tumors to grow on any nerve of the body. This has helped turn King into a crusader.

“The statistics are astonishing,” King said. “There are more NF cases than the other top diseases combined (Duchene’s muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease,) and nobody has ever heard of it. It’s so common, and it’s hard to diagnose.”

“This event will be a huge thing for us,” Kelly Peterson said. “It will be a great way to bring attention to NF. It is hard to treat effectively and there is no cure. It is underrecognized, underdiagnosed, underfunded and undertreated.”

Of Natalie, Peterson said, “I am so blessed to have her. She is the joy of my life.”

But Peterson has had to stand by while her daughter endured four surgeries over nine months so one of her legs would not have to be amputated.

Natalie also has twice the chance of a normal child of developing autism or a learning disability.

“Natalie has had her share of hardships,” Peterson said. “She had to wear a cast from her armpits to her toes for five and a half months. She is an incredible trooper.”

Thanks to King turning into an angel, Natalie’s hopes for the future are getting brighter.

The Kevin-Kelly friendship goes back to their happy high school days in the mid-1990s. Their fondness for each other survived the years, but what has happened to them with this charity event was totally unexpected.

At the time he reconnected with Peterson, King had been searching for a way to “give back” after becoming a highly successful businessman in recent years.

“Two years ago I sent a donation to the Children’s Tumor Foundation, and Kelly sent me a thank-you note,” King said. “I have no idea of how she got my name because those things are supposed to be anonymous. I hadn’t heard from her in 10 years, so I decided to call her in Los Angeles. She was in tears when she heard my voice.”

Peterson’s emotions flowed over the dam when King became instantly inspired to have a paddleboard relay race to raise money and awareness of NF.

“Kelly became very emotional,” King said. “She is a special woman. She is so incredibly gifted.”

Already a very busy guy (including coaching his kindergarten-age son’s baseball team), King got the ball rolling for Stand Up to NF.

He was able to line up some outstanding sponsors for the event and also the services of a promising young journalist. Hailey, a 15-year-old sophomore at Lakeridge, plans to write an article about Stand Up to NF for the school newspaper, The Newspacer. Such support makes King and Peterson confident of success.

“We hope this will bring awareness of NF to a large segment of the public,” Peterson said. “It’s going to be a really fun thing. My heart is filled with so much gratitude. I so appreciate Kevin’s dedication, energy and enthusiasm.”

As for the competition itself, King said, “Any level of ability can participate. It’s going to be a blast.”

King’s goal is to attract at least 50 teams. Entry fee is $35 per person or $140 per team. All income from the event will go to the Children’s Tumor Foundation. The relay will start at Cedaroak boat launch in West Linn.

For more information, call King at 503-333-6797. To register, go to For information on neurofibromatosis and the Children’s Tumor Foundation, go to

Sponsors of Stand Up to NF are eFit, Gorge Performance, CrossFit and J.D. Fulwiler & Co. Insurance.

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