More than 40,000 people will walk the Kidney Walk in 2008, from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the sunny beaches of Miami.
Individuals, families, friends and corporate teams will raise millions of dollars to support NKF's patient services, public and professional initiatives and kidney research. Each walker has his or her unique story, a personal connection to chronic kidney disease and the will to help those who have the disease live better lives. One such walker is Benny Vozza of New York.
Benny Vozza is rallying a group of nearly 50 friends and family members to step out in support of kidney disease at the Kidney Walk on Sunday, October 19 at New York City's South Street Seaport. Benny was diagnosed with kidney disease at 18. Through diet and exercise he kept it under control. Doctors told him that by about age 50 or 60 he'd need a transplant. But the news that his kidney function had declined drastically came earlier than he thought.
At 34, he went for a routine blood test and was called back to retake it two days later. He was told his potassium levels were so high that there must have been a false reading. Once the test was redone, Benny was sent to the hospital immediately.
Apparently, it was time for a transplant. Benny was lucky in that he had a twin brother who he assumed could be his kidney donor. But his twin was found to have high blood pressure and was not a suitable donor. His wife, Linda, however turned out to be an appropriate match and within six weeks, Benny had her kidney.
The surgery took place in November 2005 and aside from one rejection episode two months post-transplant, both Benny and Linda have been healthy ever since. Both returned to work within a few months -- Linda to her position as a teacher in the NYC public school system and Benny to his job as a wedding photographer for one of Brooklyn's largest photography studios.
Last year was the first time the Vozzas got involved with the Kidney Walk and they exceeded their goal of $1,000. The couple raised $4,100 to support the National Kidney Foundation's programs in research, public education, early detection and advocacy. Their fund raising goal this year is $5,000 and with their track record and enthusiasm for the cause, it's quite likely they'll achieve that goal.