By Bill Hahn, National Kidney Foundation Kidney Advocacy Committee member and “Footprints in the Sand” Walk co-founder and chair
COCOA BEACH, FLORIDA: On Saturday May 13th, 2017, we proudly saluted our selfless Florida Living Kidney Donors and celebrated the gift of life through organ, tissue, and eye donation.
Congressman Bill Posey, State Senator Debbie Mayfield, and State Representative Thomas Goodson shared the day, and walked the walk by joining hands with hundreds of families in the “Gift of Life Journey.” Congressman Bill Posey – a member of the Congressional Kidney Caucus, co-sponsor of the Living Donor Protection Act, and Honorary Walk Chairman – once again led the way as he has done since the Walk’s inception in 2012. At the kick-off ceremony, Posey said, “it is both humbling and educational to walk alongside donor families, living donors, and recipients, hear their stories and share with the participants.”
The Cocoa Beach Kidney Walk was founded by Richard Salick and myself, patient advocates, and fellow professional surfers. When we founded the Walk, we wanted to share the stories of every person affected by our shared journey. We knew it had to be special, and that’s why we honor our donor moms with the “Starfish Donor Mom Legacy Dinner” the evening before the Walk. That evening we also paddle-out unified into the “Circle of Life” with living donors and recipients, we recognize our dialysis patients with our “You Are Not Alone Award,” and build “Sandcastles of Hope” for our littlest kidney warriors.
What Rich and I envisioned when we created the Walk in 2012 is becoming a reality—we wanted to help others share each path traveled to the gift of life. This year was especially gratifying as our state legislators came on board by making “footprints in the sand” a symbol of solidarity with patients and their families, interacting first hand with our front-line patients and their families, and listening to the real impact their actions can have to their patient constituents. We had invited our state legislators to “walk the Walk,” and experience face to face the joys, sorrows, and the financial and insurance issues patients face just to stay alive. They now understand that making your “footprints” is about making a difference.
This year, the Florida Senate passed S.R. 1836, establishing the Florida Living Kidney Donors Day. Senator Debbie Mayfield stated, “the 2017 Cocoa Beach Living Kidney Donor Day Walk was my first Walk and definitely not my last. It was an honor to present the Living Kidney Donors Day Resolution to Mr. Hahn, the Co-Founder and Chair of the Cocoa Beach Kidney Walk. It was humbling to see the graciousness of those who have lost loved ones and the living kidney donors who have given a second chance to the families of loved ones that they touched.”
Talking with our legislators in this open environment was a great way to broach the serious life and death issues that we as CKD patients, living donors, and our families must deal with on a day in and day out basis.
Candace Mattox, a dialysis patient and speaker said, “the entire weekend was
emotional. Getting to hear all sides of organ donation is an amazing experience. It was amazing what some people are doing with their second chance at life. I wish there was a way to get that message out to people who are not organ donors. I’d love to be able to show them what people can do when given a normal life again.” Candace is due to receive a living kidney donation in July.
I can’t thank our legislators enough for opening their eyes, ears and hearts, and for the supporting and honoring our Florida living kidney donors in such a moving way. Now, it’s time to take the next step and make our next “footprint in the sand” by passing the Living Donor Protection Act.
Honor and protect our living kidney donors.
See additional coverage on the 2017 and previous “Footprints in the Sand” Kidney Walks:
NKF Surfer’s Story – My story
2015 – NKFF Cocoa Beach Foot Prints in the Sand Kidney Walk, You Are Not Alone! – Jaime was transplanted after this video