Giving back has been a very important part of my journey since 2004 when I first learned of the PKD Foundation. I founded a local Chapter in Pennsylvania and shared my story in front of an audience for the first time in Anaheim, Calif. at a PKD Conference and my involvement continued to grow from there. I quickly learned how giving back gave purpose to all of the trials I have endured and a passion to make a difference in the world. I continue to believe that I’m alive to use my health hurdles to help others.
We never know the impact we can have on others’ lives. I was humbled to receive the Bounce Back, Give Back award from the Chris Klug Foundation (CKF) last month at Summit for Life, an uphill race in Aspen, Colo. to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation. As a PKD patient and transplant recipient, it was touching to be honored for being true to myself and bouncing back and giving back throughout this extraordinarily challenging and beautiful life.
The Summit for Life weekend consisted of two events. Friday night was Wine & Dine for Life, where around 75 very close supporters of the organization shared a nice dinner, mingled and were introduced to the award winners. Chris Klug had a Q&A with us at the event, and I loved how genuine, relaxed and heartfelt that was. I really connected with the attendees and had incredible feedback and conversations from those who were inspired by my answers during the Q&A. After just getting out of the hospital in California for sepsis three days prior and flying to Aspen for the weekend, I was grateful on many levels and my emotions were quite raw. Saturday night was Summit for Life, an evening of inspiration and athleticism like I’ve never seen before. A total of 517 participants hiked or rode the gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain, where I was called on stage in front of hundreds of attendees for a second Q&A and was presented with the Bounce Back, Give Back award.
It is hard to put the entire event into words, but I’ll never forget the love and support I received. I was authentic and true to my emotions, and having that embraced by others and inspiring them along the way was one of the most beautiful experiences of the power of being genuine. I continue to be in awe of the incredible experiences I’m gifted with from the challenges that I face. Summit for Life is an example of how much greatness one can receive by giving back.
During the final Q&A, Chris asked what motivates me to give back. I responded that I want to make my donor proud, and that I hope how I approach life and take care of myself as a kidney transplant recipient will encourage others to sign up to be organ donors. I know how powerful the gift of life can be, and I want potential donors to know how amazing it is to be part of a miracle, and the boomerang effect of positivity that giving to others has.
How have you given back and what positivity has it brought into your life?
Valen – thank you for your generosity, courage, and willingness to be authentic in the midst of struggle and chaos.
Thank you for reading my blog and for your beautiful and heartfelt sentiments. They touched me and mean a lot! I hope your health is well and wish you the very best in health and life.