Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dozens of walkers brave the cold

The cold temperatures may have cut the turnout for the National Kidney Foundation Walk, but the event surpassed its donation goal.

An organizer for the National Kidney Foundation Kidney Walk said the event had about half of the expected turnout of 150 people. The walk, which had two course options, took place Oct. 17.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Johnson

An organizer for the National Kidney Foundation Kidney Walk said the event had about half of the expected turnout of 150 people. The walk, which had two course options, took place Oct. 17.

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Though cold temperatures cut into turnout for Roanoke's third annual National Kidney Foundation Kidney Walk, what it lacked in numbers it made up for with enthusiasm and donations.

"In my opinion it's the best walk we've done. I think we finally got it down," said Nicole Johnson, coordinator for the event.

The walk took place Oct. 17 at Mill Mountain Park and zoo.

The purpose of the walk is to educate the community about kidney disease and its risk factors. Participants are typically patients, family members of those affected or professionals in the medical field.

The walk itself isn't competitive, but there are incentives for participants to raise money, including T-shirts and sweat shirts depending on the amount raised. Most participants solicited donations from relatives, churches and businesses.

Participants were given the option of two courses: One was a quarter of a mile on flat land and the other a watchtower trail for those who wanted a more scenic, challenging walk.

Johnson said because of chilly weather, the walk had about half of the expected turnout of 150 people. However, she said participants exceeded this year's $20,000 donation goal, having raised $22,000 as of Wednesday.

Among the top donors was Air Force veteran and kidney transplant recipient Bill Horne. Horne was the captain of the walk team "Veterans and Company," which raised about $5,000. Horne said he raised more than $3,000 on his own.

Horne said he worked hard to raise money because the cause hits home for him. He was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in 1997. He managed his illness with medication for years until a nephrologist recommended Horne go on dialysis, which he began in 2005. Horne underwent treatments three days a week for three years.

"Dialysis is not a picnic," he said.

All things considered, Horne said he did well with his treatments, having never gotten sick. Horne said the biggest side effects he felt were pain in his legs and shortness of breath walking up stairs.

Having received a kidney transplant in November 2008, Horne is approaching his one-year mark.

"When I got the kidney transplant I decided to do everything I could to support the National Kidney Foundation," Horne said.

"I still have kidney disease, but I have a second chance at life."

Johnson said kidney disease is one of the top "silent killers" of Americans, behind illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, because it has very few symptoms, and by the time someone is diagnosed it's often too late. She hopes events such as the walk continue to raise awareness.

"We're just going to continue paying tribute to people that are affected by the disease and those who have given the gift of life by donating an organ," Johnson said.

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