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Sixteen-month-old Jackson Beattie of Duluth, Minnesota, may not be aware of it yet, but there are soldiers fighting for him halfway around the world.
Beattie's parents, Sara and Dave, learned of their son's severe kidney damage while he was still in the womb. The toddler now needs a kidney transplant and his family launched an all out search.
In the course of seeking a kidney donor, the Beatties found hundreds willing to take up the fight against kidney disease – including a group of soldiers on duty in Afghanistan.
Already saving lives and serving their country, Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Shaul also stepped up for the kidney cause. Shaul is serving in the U.S. Army, Charlie Company 3-25 Aviation Regiment part of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. His medevac company provides coverage through RC-South and flies UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. But it's not enough for Shaul and his company to be saving lives in the field, they are promoting kidney and donor awareness and raising money for the National Kidney Foundation from the remote parts of Afghanistan.
Shaul grew up in the same town as the Beatties. When he heard about Jackson's medical situation, he reached out to the family and decided that in between missions, he and his company would walk in solidarity with Jackson's cause.
"It's so hard knowing what Dave and Sara are going through every day; the fear, the hope, the fact that they have to rely on someone else's generosity to save their child's life," said Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Shaul. "At the same time, it's been inspirational to see how they are handling it."
"Nearly everyone in the company ordered a shirt for Jackson's Duluth Kidney Walk team, Keepin' It Renal," Shaul said. "We dedicated all those miles we walked to Jackson's cause." The company has also been in touch with folks back home, sending out Jackson's information to procure potential living donors and to support the Beatties through Facebook and their Kidney Walk team.
The Keepin' It Renal Team has collected over $19,000 from friends, family and their military supporters in Afghanistan. For those soldiers, the chance to support kidney disease prevention efforts, and the Beattie family, has been rewarding in its own right.
"It's really opened the eyes of others in the company. It just wasn't something they had thought a lot about until now," Shaul said. "I've received many enthusiastic responses about fundraising and organ donation. People want to help. I plan on getting tested as a donor at some point. If I could help Jackson that would be awesome, but if I'm not a match for him I plan on donating to someone in need anyway."