Marchers walk for awareness
Charity: annual Kidney March raising money
Wednesday, Sep 09, 2015 06:00 am
Hundreds of marchers will take the fight against Kidney Disease to foothills roads this weekend to raise money and awareness of the disease.
More than 270 people will participate in the 6th annual Kidney March takes place from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13. Participants will cover 100 kilometres in three days, beginning at the Millarville Racetrack and crossing the finish line at Canada Olympic Park (COP) in Calgary.
“We believe that kidney disease deserves this platform because and really want to put a spotlight on it,” said Diane Kashuba, manager of communications and fund development for the southern Alberta chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
While some join the event for the challenge and to help raise money for a good cause, many who get involved in the walk either have Kidney Disease themselves or know somebody who does.
“Kidney disease is a lifelong struggle that really affects families,” said Kashuba. “A lot of times breadwinners can’t work anymore because dialysis becomes their job.”
Each marcher raises a minimum of $2,200 prior to the event and organizers hope to raise $650,000 in 2015. Funds raised from the Kindey March go directly to research, and every penny helps finish important projects, she said.
The three-day walk begins with an orientation evening on Sept. 10 at the Delta Calgary South where marchers are given final instructions and safety guidelines for walking along Foothills highways.
Opening ceremonies at the racetrack include inspirational speeches as the sun comes up on eager marchers before beginning their trek around 7:30 a.m.
With stops along the way, marchers walk for 30 km, ending at “Kidney March City,” a base camp set up at Camp Gardner near Bragg Creek. There, they are provided with medical attention or massage as necessary, entertainment and hot meals before taking on the second day.
Walkers begin day two at Powderface Trail Head and march along highway 66 back to Camp Gardner, a distance of about 38 km.
The final leg of the Kidney March takes participants to the top of COP where the entire group gathers together and crosses the finishing line as one.
“So many family and friends come out and watch them cross the last kilometre, and a lot of people have signs and they’re cheering for their loved ones,” said Kashuba. “It’s a very moving experience.”
Okotoks resident Ilona Stewart is volunteering as a crewmember for the march for her sixth year. She gathers inspiration from her young grandson.
An ultrasound revealed that his right kidney was multi-cystic when his mother was only 18 weeks pregnant. Three days after his fourth birthday, his right kidney was removed.
“From the day they found out it was constant ultrasounds and blood tests and trips to the (Alberta Children’s Hospital),” said Stewart. “He’s five-and-a-half now, and he’s doing great.”
Her grandson’s left kidney is completely healthy and functioning normally, but doctors continue to monitor its condition and the boy’s health.
Stewart said volunteering for the Kidney March has taught her a lot about kidney disease and the people that it affects.
“You meet people going through the same thing,” she said. “So many people come out and they’re on dialysis, and they’ll do dialysis at night and walk in the morning. It’s emotional and inspiring.”
Kidney disease is a silent one, she said, that not many people hear about or understand until they are directly affected.
Spreading awareness is one of her main goals, as well as supporting the marchers and making sure they have everything they need during the walk.
Crew members like Stewart help set up and run pit stops along the march, serve breakfast and dinner in the camp, and meet the marchers at the finish line at the end of three long days.
“It’s the most amazing thing, the finish line,” said Stewart. “There’s tears. There’s cheers. It’s so emotional, I’m tearing up now just thinking about it.”
For more information about the Kidney March or to volunteer, visit www.kidneymarch.ca.