By Jason Nothdurft, Kidney Advocacy Committee member and kidney patient
The National Kidney Foundation’s New Jersey Kidney Walk took place at Veterans Park in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, in late September. If you’re reading this, you probably already know the importance of the Kidney Walk and its pivotal role in raising awareness and funds for the NKF’s mission.
If you didn’t attend the Walk, you may not have known about the special guests that attended. Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Hamilton Township Mayor Kelly Yaede (R), and Hamilton Township Council President Jeff Martin (D) all attended reminding us of the strong bipartisan support that exists for tackling the burden of kidney disease.
When holding awareness events such as this, it is helpful to invite elected officials who represent the community to participate. When policymakers come to these gatherings, they get to see kidney disease up close through the life experiences of the patients, living organ donors, families and practitioners and walk away with a deeper understanding of NKF’s important cause.
In our case, Council President Martin and Mayor Yaede were eager to accept our invitation and offer support for NKF.
Congressman Payne was also happy to be in attendance, and his participation offers an important advocacy lesson: He is from Newark and represents the state’s 10th Congressional District. The Kidney Walk occurred in the 12th Congressional District, more than 50 miles away from his Newark office. His attendance at our event happened because two amazing members of NKF’s Kidney Advocacy Committee, Judy and Abe Rosenstein, worked with NKF’s local office to invite him.
Congressman Payne also has a personal connection to the Kidney Walk. He announced on February 21, 2019, that he was starting dialysis due to complications related to diabetes. Judy and Abe started their outreach to his office when they met with his staff during the Kidney Patient Summit in Washington, D.C. and continued by following up with his home district offices later during the year. This included meeting with the Congressman over the summer. At that meeting, the Congressman asked how he could show his support for NKF, kidney patients, and organ donors.
At the Kidney Walk, Judy and Abe continued their conversation with the Congressman and introduced him to others from across New Jersey. Congressman Payne, Jr. is a great champion of our cause already because he supports a number of kidney-health related bills and priorities, such as the Living Donor Protection Act, expanding Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs, and increasing research funding for kidney disease. This is a great success for our kidney community! Consistency and hard work paid off for Judy and Abe’s mission.
Have you thought about how you can help the kidney community in your state and follow in Judy and Abe’s footsteps? Consider how you can engage with NKF to help us bring our stories to the forefront of each of our elected officials’ attention by becoming an advocate or volunteering to help our local offices with their outreach efforts. Email NKFadvocacy@kidney.org to learn more more!