This post is part of a special series in honor of the 2017 fall Walk for PKD season. As the season progresses, a PKD Foundation staff member will share their experience at a local event. This week’s featured contributor is Andy Betts, Chief Executive Officer:
I attended my first Walk for PKD event of the 2017 season in Kansas City on Sept. 9. While I plan to attend other Walks in the coming weeks, what immediately stood out to me was the amount of support shown for PKD patients. With families, friends and even pets present, it was easy to see patients are not alone in their fight with this disease. When you can put that many faces to our cause, it exemplifies that the Walk is a family affair.
Our Walk for PKD events are an important opportunity to celebrate our community. You can come to an event wearing your Walk t-shirt proudly and honor the people that came before you, the loved ones you have today and the generations ahead. No matter where you are in your PKD journey, whether you’ve recently been diagnosed, haven’t been diagnosed yet or are post-transplant, the Walk is a place for patients to find the community they need.
The Walk to me, in three words, is hope, energy and recognition. The turnout I saw at the Kansas City Walk reminded me of the optimism in our community, and though it’s hard to be optimistic with PKD at times, that optimism creates so much hope. I felt so much energy at the starting line, too, realizing we are all on this journey together. As for recognition, these events shed light on a disease that isn’t often recognized. Not only that, but at the Walks, we can also recognize individuals who are affected by PKD for what they go through and what the future holds.
Another memorable moment was when we recognized our co-founder, Dr. Jared Grantham, at the Kansas City Walk. His legacy lives on in the Foundation, and we honored how much he contributed to PKD research.
Seeing researchers from the newly named Jared Grantham Kidney Institute that Dr. Grantham started at the University of Kansas Hospital coming out to participate in the Kansas City Walk was a powerful thing. Their team, The Renal Avengers, are among our top fundraising teams, and they actively carry on his legacy with research and community involvement. Before the start of the Walk, they released balloons in Dr. Grantham’s memory, and it struck me as being very symbolic—that the PKD journey isn’t just about walking forward, but also remembering people who laid the groundwork for what we are. Dr. Grantham’s story doesn’t stop; it lives on in our chapters, our researchers’ work and patients’ lives.
As the Walk season continues and I participate in more events, I’m looking forward to hearing other peoples’ stories, too. PKD affects people of all ages, genders and races, bringing diversity to our community. We all come from different walks of life, but seeing the common thread of our mission in chapters all over the country speaks to our momentum. My hope is, year after year, we get more people involved in the Walk for PKD so we can continue to display the resiliency of our community.
We have built momentum this Walk season so far, and I can’t wait to see the progress we will continue to make. If there’s anything Dr. Grantham taught us, it’s that we can never give up on our mission. He and those who worked with him have shown us that when we stand shoulder-to-shoulder, we can make a difference. The launch of our monthly giving program, Heroes for Hope, is a crucial part of that, too. By making sustained donations, each person can be a hero and help us accelerate the pathway toward treatments and cure.