Local volunteer leaders give an inside look at the Detroit Chapter

Kim and Mike Ahrens

Greetings from Kim and Mike Ahrens! We are Co-Coordinators for the Detroit Chapter along with Cheryl Sherman. Our PKD journey began when Kim was diagnosed with PKD in 2005 while she served as Executive Director of Finance in Grand Rapids for Booth Newspapers/Advance Publications. Prior to her diagnosis, there was no family history of PKD, so we had a steep learning curve. After Kim was airlifted from Muskegon to Ann Arbor for life-saving treatment, our lifestyle took a dramatic turn. Both of us retired from our professions and relocated to Ann Arbor to be near Kim’s team of doctors at the University of Michigan Health System. Mike was an educator and basketball coach; he continues to enjoy coaching a local high school varsity basketball team. Plus, we have two daughters, Carly and Hayden, who live in the greater Detroit area, so being near them is rewarding.

Our involvement with the Detroit Chapter started in 2013 when we moved to Ann Arbor. We quickly discovered that it is easy to become an active member in a local chapter no matter where you live; there are no set boundaries. When we attended our first Walk for PKD, along with several members of our family and friends, it was inspirational and rewarding to finally meet others in the PKD community who are traveling the same journey, just along another path. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the Walk for PKD was just the beginning for Team Ahrens.

Participants from the 2018 Bookstore Crawl

Kim has a passion for reading and enjoys browsing bookstores. On one occasion, Mike was waiting outside and happened to see a pub trolley pass by. Team Ahrens wasted no time in conceiving and implementing an event known as the Downtown Ann Arbor PKD Bookstore Crawl. Ann Arbor has 10 independent bookstores within a few blocks, so for the event, our participants spend the day perusing books, walking, reading, shopping, exploring and dining. Family, friends, educators, readers and authors support Team Ahrens through donations, silent auction, education and raising awareness of PKD. While walking a designated route in teams, participants distribute bookmarks featuring PKD facts and contact information to anyone expressing interest. Our event has grown from 13 to 55 participants in the last five years.

A couple more unique events Team Ahrens has hosted include:

  • Movie Night – Screened a DVD movie release complete with popcorn, pizza and prizes
  • March Madness Bracket Contest – Entries include men’s and women’s NCAA tournament brackets

Kim with Teal Night Out speaker, Dr. Greg VandenHeuvel

Our most recent event, Teal Out Night, originated through collaboration from Mike and one of his basketball contacts at West Michigan Aviation Academy (WMAA) located in Grand Rapids, Mich. We conducted an informational meeting with WMAA student council and advisors to educate and answer questions regarding PKD in an effort to be selected as the non-profit organization benefiting from their weeklong activities and fundraisers. These included:

  • T-shirt Sales
  • Penny Wars in Classrooms
  • Silent Auction
  • Information Table
  • 1 Minute Bucket Collection

Kim and Dr. Greg VandenHeuvel (WMU) spoke at half time of two basketball games held on Dec. 7, 2018. This was a rewarding endeavor and we hope to make it an annual event.

Being involved with the Detroit Chapter has allowed us to grow in knowledge, understanding, support and recognition for the PKD community as a whole. Finding a PKD chapter will aid in ways you never thought possible. Why? Because you are not alone in the fight against PKD.

If you’re interested in volunteering with your local PKD Foundation Chapter, sign up here to get involved!


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