Garland Patton, a dialysis patient in the Chromalloy Kidney Center at Washington University, and a group of more than 50 family and friends, turned out for the annual St. Louis National Kidney Foundation (NKF)-sponsored Kidney Walk held last April. This was the fifth year in a row that the Patton group took part in the fundraiser.
Garland’s oldest daughter, Erica, says the family was originally encouraged to join the NKF walk by her niece Michaiah, who wanted to do something for her grandfather. So, a group of ten including Garland, Erica, her siblings Trineice, Garland Jr., Ebony and Terrence, and mother Sheila gathered for their first walk in 2012. “We got so much knowledge from it – about how to take care of our bodies and how to help with our dad. We loved the event so much,” says Erica.
Since that first walk, the group has made t-shirts and participated in various fundraisers and outreach programs to “get the word out” about the kidneys and the important role they play in your body. “This year was the best year ever,” says Erica. “Not only did we get to donate a nice amount but we had over 50 people to join and help out with the movement. Family and friends from all over got a chance to enjoy the NKF walk.” The family event is so popular that a nephew from Atlanta, Georgia, has travelled to St. Louis to join in the last few walks.
Garland, who just turned 56 and who has been on dialysis for 18 years, is very enthusiastic about the event, “We enjoy it. It gets bigger and bigger, you know, more and more people want to come. It‘s not the biggest group, but we’re in there!” Garland says the NKF walks are a place to get to know others in your situation – and more. “You get to meet people. You get to meet different doctors, nurses, and staff. There are a lot of other people there.”
The Kidney Walk is usually held on the St. Louis University campus at Laclede Park. This year, due to weather that forced cancellation of most outdoor events in St. Louis that day, the event was held in the Chaifetz Arena. “We made the quick decision to change venues to an inside facility in order to still be able to hold the walk,” says Cherie Gilderbloom, Development Manager for the National Kidney Foundation serving Eastern Missouri and Metro East. “We were able to work with Chaifetz Arena, who was fantastic in helping us figure everything out in a short amount of time to pull off an incredible event.” The walk featured The King of St. Louis as emcee and live music from Blackdog and the Rainmakers.
Over 1,000 participants walked in the 2017 event and raised over $135,000 (and counting) to raise awareness of kidney disease and to fund programs that educate and support patients, their families and those at risk. “We were so grateful for the turnout. It’s so awesome how dedicated our walkers are and show up year after year,” says Cherie.
The Patton family wants to continue to spread the word about kidney disease. “The awareness starts with us letting people know that knowledge is out there for them,” says Erica Patton. I just really want people to look at my dad and know that he is more to us than a dad. He is our hero every day. He fights to be here with his family. If you know someone going through something similar, support them! Get out there and gain as much knowledge that you can about it. Be their hero!”
As for Garland, he’s enthusiastic about the annual event and proud to be part of raising the awareness of kidney disease. “It’s pretty nice, it really is. You’ve got people involved. It was all new to me, but I got a chance to tell somebody.” Known in the dialysis center as someone who is “always being so upbeat and positive”, Garland is more than happy to have his story posted on social media. “Maybe we can find more people!”
As Garland sits hooked up to a hemodialysis machine in Chromalloy, patiently waiting for his session to finish, he points to a woman whose family had taken part in the walk. “They want to join my team next year.”
For more information on the annual St. Louis NKF Kidney Walk, contact Cherie Gilderbloom: firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-961-2828 ext. 486.
Follow links to see the sponsors and in-kind donors who helped make the event possible.