Kidneys clean toxins from the blood and make urine. They also help with blood pressure regulation. As critical as these functions are to healthy living, Black people experience a high prevalence of kidney failure.
“While African Americans make up about 13 percent of the population, they account for 35 percent of the people with kidney failure in the United States. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney failure among African Americans,” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reported.
LaVon Thomas Jr. (“DJ Young Fresh Prince”) is a 17-year-old kidney transplant recipient who knows how impactful kidney challenges can be. Kidney disease does not discriminate. Patients can vary in age, circumstance or background.
“I was born with kidney failure, so I documented my life story. When I was finally ready to come out and tell my story, I linked up with the Kidney Foundation and we started partnering,” LaVon said, mentioning that his involvement began around 2020.
Listening to music calms the DJ who also said that it is important to raise awareness about kidney health.
Zorina Thomas, LaVon’s mother, donated a kidney to her then eleven-month-old son. She was his perfect match, but LaVon reportedly will need another transplant down the road. His kidney function is declining, according to a press release.
LaVon, a senior who attends high school in Frederick, Maryland, is a National Kidney Foundation Serving Maryland and Delaware ( NKFMDDE) ambassador. For a second year in a row, the DJ will be spinning tunes to entertain attendees at the Maryland Kidney Walk on Sunday, September 10, 2023 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, located at 1000 Hilltop Circle in Baltimore, Maryland. The family- friendly event will also feature stage entertainment, vendors, face painting, arts and crafts and games. Check-in for NKFMDDE’s signature community fundraiser begins at 9 a.m. at Erickson Field. The Walk kicks off at 10 a.m. Kidney Walk proceeds will directly support NKFMDDE’s patient services, education and research efforts.
LaVon also said that it is important for him to spread awareness of kidney health. Additionally, when people see him standing and doing what he loves, although he lives with kidney disease, sharing hope helps others.
The upcoming event will raise awareness of kidney disease, but also organ donation and the importance of early screening and a healthy lifestyle for those at risk.
“The National Kidney Foundation is a lifeline for thousands of patients with all stages of kidney disease. Every step our walkers take raises millions of dollars for our programs for patients, innovation in research, awareness campaigns and legislative change,” said NKFMDDE Executive Director Pattie Dash. “We need your help now to give families the information and answers they need to achieve optimal kidney health and advocate for patients who need access to dialysis and transplants.”
Sadie Chadwick-Carter, 58, is another face of kidney disease who will attend NKFMDDE’s walk. The Glen Burnie resident serves as the captain of Team Victory. Her walk team has existed since around 2007. Donations are raised for the National Kidney Foundation through teams and walk campaigns, according to Chadwick-Carter.
“We ask family, friends, or those who are still in the workforce as coworkers, we even solicit companies to donate to the Kidney Foundation so that we can help local kidney patients within an area,” Chadwick-Carter said.
Chadwick-Carter had no idea that she was experiencing kidney failure until blood work revealed it. Her own diagnosis made her ponder about her late father’s circumstance.
“My father died on dialysis. Literally, he was on the machine when he passed away and I was a young girl of 14 years old,” Chadwick-Carter said.
She ended up on dialysis for seven years. Chadwick-Carter received a kidney transplant on October 22, 2012 from a deceased donor.
“I am a kidney transplant recipient,” Chadwick-Carter said.
Chadwick-Carter began participating in the Maryland Kidney Walk before her personal kidney issue touched her life. She added that she would like to see more people get involved.
“If you don’t walk, be a volunteer. Come put on a tutu, grab some pom-poms and be what they call a cheer walker. You get out there and encourage everyone to keep stepping,” Chadwick-Carter said. “Help us stomp out kidney disease. Every step we take is a step closer to them finding a cure for kidney disease.”
NKFMDDE participants can choose from a 2-mile route or a shorter, patient-friendly route for strollers and wheelchairs. Although admission is free, donations are encouraged. Visit www.kidneywalk.org/maryland to register online. Call Dash at 410-494-8545, to learn about local sponsorship or volunteer opportunities.