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Benefit For The Clevenger Family April 9

Photo (c) Vern ClevengerAt first he thought it was just a normal part of aging. It's a natural thought for a person approaching 50. But on a routine visit to his doctor Vern Clevenger, well-known local photographer, mentioned that he was having minor memory lapses, and that he was also mixing words up. Fortunately for Clevenger, his doctor is the cautious type, and suggested some tests, "Just to be on the safe side."

The lapses turned out to be more than a normal byproduct of getting older—the tests revealed that they are the result of a tumor growing on Clevenger's brain. As you might imagine, this was devastating news for Clevenger and his family.

"At first I sensed an unwelcome companion—it's name was dread," said Margaret Clevenger. "As we learned more, and met with our surgeon, it grew, and it still lurks in the corner. But faith and hope are permeating its space," she continued.

Photo (c) Vern ClevengerIt won't be known whether the tumor is malignant until it's removed and tested. That is scheduled to happen on March 31, when Clevenger is to undergo surgery in San Francisco.

The Clevengers have deep roots in the Eastern Sierra. He moved to Bishop in 1973 at the urging of the late legendary photographer, Galen Rowell. His wife, Margaret, moved to the region in 1978. She met her future husband climbing in Yosemite the same year, and they married in 1980. She works as a part-time parent educator and counselor at the Eastern Sierra Family Resource Center.

Today they divide their time between Mammoth and Bishop. They have two children, Dylan, age 14, and Sabrina, age 7. Clevenger maintains a studio and gallery in Bishop at 3612 Ranch Road.

Given their history in the area, it's not surprising that news of the Clevengers' situation spread between like wildfire between Mammoth and Bishop. And their friends immediately began rallying around them, offering whatever help and support they could.

Two of the first people to offer help were Leslie Goethals and her husband John Dittli, long time friends of the Clevengers. Like Clevenger, Dittli is a well-known local photographer. He and Clevenger are also regular backcountry skiing partners.

Goethals' first action was to set up an e-mail network to help coordinate the dissemination of information to the Clevenger's many friends (incorrect rumors were rampant in the first few days after the news of Clevenger's diagnosis broke).

The number of people on the list has grown to almost 200, and is expanding daily. People wishing to be added to the list should send an e-mail to, with "Vern Clevenger" in the subject line. Information is also being posted on Clevenger's website.

Goethals and Dittli, along Tom Klinefelter and Ruth Hensley, also started planning fund raising efforts to give the Clevengers more than emotional support.

"People who haven't been through something like this think that money isn't an issue—that if you have insurance it pays for everything," Goethals said. "It doesn't pay for everything. And the doctor has told Vern that he won't be able to work for at least two months after the surgery. Vern's self-employed, so he doesn't have benefits such as disability or sick leave," she continued.

In addition, Margaret Clevenger will likely be unable to work at her part-time job during her husband's surgery and as she cares for him during his rehabilitation.

For these reasons the Clevengers' friends and supporters are busy arranging a silent auction and benefit, scheduled to be held Friday, April 9 between 6-9 p.m. at Galen and Barbara Rowell's Mountain Light Gallery, 106 South Main St., Bishop. RSVPs are appreciated.

Just as offers of emotional help and support poured in immediately after Clevenger's diagnosis, offers of items for the silent auction have come pouring in, too. According to Goethals more than 30 items have been donated so far.

Fine art prints from photographers top the list, followed by paintings and sculptures, trips, lodging at various locations (both locally and as far away as Vermont), kayak tours, gift certificates, and posters. The range of items is sure to grow as more items are donated.

And it's not just local residents that are stepping up to the plate. Internationally renowned wildlife and outdoor photographer Tom Mangelsen, based in Jackson, WY, has donated two fine art prints to the auction, as have other photographers from around the country.

People wishing to donate an item can contact Goethals at dittli * earthlink . net. Auction items can also be dropped off at Mountain Light Gallery.

The Mammoth Gallery, located in the Sierra Center Mall, will also hold a benefit for Clevenger on March 27-28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. New Clevenger images, vintage ski posters, and Kendra Knight's gicleé fine art photographs will be on display, and 25 percent of the proceeds go to the Vern Clevenger Fund.

Monetary donations are also being accepted. There are several ways to make a donation. Simply walk into a Bank of America in either Bishop or Mammoth and ask the teller about making a donation to the Vern Clevenger Fund. Donations can also be made at Clevenger's website, either by bank transfer or through Paypal.

All funds raised by the auction and donations will go directly to the Clevenger family for use for unexpected expenses, and for items not covered by insurance.

The Clevengers are understandably touched by the outpouring of support they are receiving.

"We feel an overwhelming sense of caring," said Margaret. "I feel like we are being carried along by a lot of love—I feel like we are being carried by angels. I don't see how we could get through this without our support group."

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