Kidney Walk organizer Jen Lewis (left) and MC for the event, Coun. Charlie Cornfield, listen to MP Rachel Blaney, who addressed the crowd Sunday about the nationwide need for organ donors. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River Kidney Walk raises funds and awareness for organ donation

Even before the walk itself, event had raised almost $10,000 for the Kidney Foundation

The weekend rainstorms stopped just in time for the 2018 Kidney Walk to take place Sunday morning, and organizer Jen Lewis says that’s a good thing, because registrations were definitely up this year and she would have hated to see everyone get blown off the Seawalk.

This was Lewis’ first year as organizer for the event, but it certainly wasn’t her first Kidney Walk.

“I partake every year,” she says. “I have polycystic kidney disease myself, my sister has it, my daughter has it, my dad has it – it’s a very strong gene in our family.”

Polycystic kidney disease, Lewis explains, is an inherited disease that causes cysts that often grow very large inside otherwise healthy kidneys, often leading to kidney failure later in life.

“A regular kidney is about the size of your fist,” Lewis explains. “But the cysts can grow to the size of a grapefruit. Right now, it hasn’t affected me physically, but eventually my kidney will go down. It won’t do its job cleaning my blood and the great stuff that kidneys do and I’ll have to go on dialysis and probably get a transplant.”

The Kidney Walk put on by the Kidney Foundation of Canada each year is for people like Lewis.

“Today raises awareness, first and foremost, about organ donation,” Lewis says. “So many people aren’t registered to be an organ donor, and events like this one make more people aware of that need.”

RELATED: Thanks to the generosity of strangers

And although the event has “kidney” in the name and that’s the organ the majority of people on the transplant list in Canada are waiting for Lewis says the campaign wants to make people aware of the need for organ donation in general.

“My stepdad donated half his live to his brother in 2001,” she says. “He was the first living donor in B.C. His brother just passed away a couple weeks ago, but that gift gave him an extra 15 years of life that he wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

The Campbell River event happens each September, but there is talk that it may move to May in the future, Lewis says.

“We meet here (at Frank James Park in Willow Point) and do a couple little speeches, then we just go for a nice easy walk up to the Big Rock and back and then do some prizes, have some snacks that have been generously donated and just have a good time together.”

This year’s event, even before the walk itself, had raised almost $10,000 for the Kidney Foundation, as well.

For more on the foundation, kidney disease itself or how to lend support or get involved, head over to kidney.ca.

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