Jumping out of planes and diving with sharks - Corey Zaretsky has always had an adventurous side. Even after donating a kidney to his younger brother Matty, this never...
Picture a gamer: you might see a young teen with color-changing lights in the back. Maybe a college student playing with friends or even an adult who made a career from it.
Lavonne Kroeger, known online as "OG Grandma," is here to crush assumptions and high scores while bringing kidney disease awareness to her online family.
Lavonne and Kory
To know Lavonne, you need to know the story of her son, Kory. Kory was a kind person who lived life to the fullest despite chronic health conditions that had affected him since childhood.
He loved spending quality time with his family (especially his nieces and nephews) and going on outdoor adventures with friends. From dodgeball to kite-surfing, he followed his passions and always went out of his way to help others.
Kory's kidneys failed at 19, and he started dialysis soon after. While in dialysis, he couldn't do the activities he loved and needed to find a way to pass the time. Lavonne helped him set up his computer at the center to play his favorite game, Fortnite. The pair were close before, but playing this game together strengthened their bond.
"We were trying to distract each other from what the dialysis can bring, monotony. I would play with him remotely. In the lobby of the game, sometimes we would be alone and we were able to talk about anything. I was there with him, playing games." Lavonne said, "[It was] his outlet, his joy in those hours. He used to say, 'Mom, it went really quick today because we are playing games.'"
Finding comfort in an online community
After a long battle with kidney failure, Kory passed away on August 5th, 2019, and Lavonne began working through her grief.
"When my son did pass away after over ten years of being there for him and supporting him, [I felt] so many different ways." Lavonne said, "I am sad that he is gone, but I'm also happy he doesn't have to go through that anymore because to see your child go through dialysis and go through the pain that kidney failure can do is disheartening in itself."
A few weeks later, she stumbled across a group of people playing Fortnite on Facebook Gaming, a live-streaming platform. Intrigued, she joined and began to make friendships with the members. Soon she found the courage to share her story with the new community.
"The amount of support I got from individuals all over the United States and beyond was amazing. Every day, it gave me that strength to keep going, " said Lavonne, "And I kept doing that; I kept building friendships. People messaged me and said, 'How are you doing?' They check in with me. That's how I got through that at the moment."
Streaming to raise awareness and spread joy
A year after joining the community, she decided to honor her son and raise money to help end kidney disease by live-streaming their favorite game, Fortnite. With the help of her grandchildren, Lavonne chose the name “OG Grandma” and began preparing for her first-ever Team Kidney Streams live event.
It was a success! Since then, she's streamed every August 5th to commemorate Kory, support the fight against kidney disease, and educate her community.
Lavonne didn't stop at one day, though. You can find her bringing comfort and inspiration to her followers year-round.
"I share on a personal note and on my page about what [kidney disease] has done and what I did to cope. I talk about grief in itself and mental health, " said Lavonne. "My goal every day that I stream is to bring joy, love, or compassion to one person, at least if I can make a difference in that one person for that day."
Join Team Kidney Streams
Whether you share kidney disease facts while dodging opponents, encourage viewers to check their kidney health during a morning vlog, or host a charity stream, like Lavonne, Team Kidney Streams gives you the chance to fight kidney disease while doing what you love.
"If you have a passion for something, whether it be building friendships around the world, supporting a charity of your choice, or just getting knowledge out there to people, I think streaming is the best way to do that," said Lavonne. "It's not about money or fame. It's about sharing life and letting others know that we are human and here for each other."
Ready to find your community and make a difference? Join Team Kidney Streams today.
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