Jimmy O'Conor's kidneys have been failing since he was 5 years old.
After three successful kidney transplants, O'Conor decided it was time to do his part to raise awareness of the need for kidney donors.
The owner of Woody's Dewey Beach, O'Conor formed a team to raise money and walk in the fifth annual Southern Delaware Kidney Walk, sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, set for Sunday, April 14 at Cape Henlopen State Park.
O'Conor heard about the walk when organizers held at meeting at the Dewey Beach Lions Club.
As a child, O'Conor was diagnosed with kidney failure in one kidney. Doctors couldn't pinpoint the problem, but in his 20s he needed his first transplant. It lasted for 13 years, and he's had two more transplants since then. Still, he says he feels healthy and is loving life.
“The kidney foundation has been a part of me since I was 5,” O'Conor said. O'Conor's mother was his first kidney donor. She started volunteering with the kidney foundation when her son was a patient at Johns Hopkins.
“I spent a lot of time in the hospital as a child,” he said. “I have been blessed with a very supportive family.”
More than 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, but most don’t know it, said Caryn Sagal, spokeswoman for the foundation.
“This is a gorgeous location right on the beach, just in time for all of us with spring fever to get out and enjoy the sunshine while supporting a great cause that impacts so many in our community,” said Lydia Foxwell, the foundation's director of field services for the Eastern Shore and a living kidney donor.
One in two Americans will develop kidney disease in their lifetime. Kidney disease can be detected early through simple screening, Foxwell said.
“I think events like the walk raise the awareness of the importance of your kidneys. People kind of take them for granted,” O'Conor said. “Since I've been down here, I've met about 15 people who have had transplants; it's amazing how many people are affected.”
Walk check-in begins at 9 a.m. at the pavilion. The dog-friendly walk steps off at 10 a.m. Participants can choose from a 3.2-mile trail or a shorter trail for strollers and wheelchairs.
Refreshments will be provided by Surf Bagel and Pepsi. The event will feature music by Moonbeam Entertainment and a kids activity center with face painting and games. The Kidney Paws for a Cause booth will offer activities for Fido including a best-dressed dog contest.
There is no registration fee, but Cape Henlopen State Park charges an entrance fee to of $4 per vehicle registered in Delaware and $8 for vehicles registered outside the state of Delaware.
All Kidney Walk participants who raise a minimum of $100 will earn a 2013 Kidney Walk T-shirt.
For pre-registration, or information about sponsorship or volunteer opportunities, call 443-235-8407 or visit www.kidneywalk.org.
The foundation will hold four Kidney Walks, including a second Delmarva area walk, Sunday, May 5, at Salisbury’s Winterplace Park.
Funds raised through Kidney Walk will directly support patient services, education and research efforts. More than 3,500 people participated in the 2012 Kidney Walk events, which raised over $370,000.
To donate to O'Conor's campaign, go to http://donate.kidney.org/site/TR/Walk/Maryland?pg=team&fr_id=5531&team_i....
The National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, serving central and western Maryland, the Delmarva Peninsula and portions of West Virginia, is the area’s only voluntary health agency dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of kidney and urinary-tract diseases. For more information, visit www.kidneywalk.org.