POSTER GIRL- This year’s poster child for the Kidney Foundation of Canada

Giving the gift of hope with your own two feet

This year marks the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Red Deer & District’s fifth annual ‘Give the Gift of Life Fun Run and Walk’ on Sept. 11.

The run starts at Great Chief Park from the Kiwanis Picnic Shelter in Red Deer with registration starting at 9 a.m. The walk begins at 10:30 a.m.

Participants can choose either a five km non-competitive run or a two km walk.

The Foundation’s goal is to raise $57,000 to promote organ and tissue donation and to improve the lives of people living with kidney disease.

Olivia Hall, 13, of Stettler has been living with dialysis since she was five years old and is the poster child for this year’s fundraiser.

Her mother Whitney has been helping the Foundation in any way she can.

“As a parent it is really hard watching your child go through something where you feel so unable to help,” said Whitney.

“Hopefully by the time Olivia’s kidneys fail her I am really hoping that the research has some other way to deal with it but for now my biggest thing is to raise funds and awareness.”

Canada has one of the lowest donation rates in the world and Whitney said it is very sad.

“About 4,000 Canadians are on the waiting list at any time and 150 to 200 die every year while they are waiting and I don’t want my daughter to be a statistic,” said Whitney.

Living with this disease, Olivia misses a lot of school and said she has to eat foods that are low in sodium and watch her diet carefully.

“It is hard for both of us sometimes because when she is in remission you wouldn’t know she is sick, but something like this fundraiser brings it to the forefront and makes you realize it is there,” said Whitney.

Olivia relapsed in March of this year, which meant that the medication she was taking to keep her kidneys working were not doing their job anymore and so she had to go on prednisone.

“It’s not really the most fun medication to go on,” said Olivia. “Some of the side effects are really bad.”

Olivia has to take pills every morning and night and has to get a biopsy done every two years.

“As far as we know she is still in the early stages and two years ago she still had 90 per cent function of her kidneys,” said Whitney.

Olivia couldn’t participate in gym as much this year because it would make her really tired and she missed the last three weeks of school but she still managed to move up another grade with her high marks.

“She misses more school than most children, but when she relapses she is exhausted at times so we try to take her out of any physical activity because her heart rate goes up because of the drugs she is on,” said Whitney.

Meanwhile, she emphasized the importance of organ donation.

“It is so important to let your family know that you wish to donate your organs,” said Whitney. “It is great that you have it in your will or wallet, but that might be too late so make sure your family knows your wishes.”

Olivia agrees. “If anything living with this disease has taught me to love life because you only get one.”

To register for the Fun Run visit www.kidney.ab.ca or if you would like more information call 403-392-4935.

tsigurdson@reddeerexpress.com

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