Representatives from five Vancouver Island chapters of Kidney Foundation of Canada – B.C. gathered at Maffeo Sutton Park Thursday to kick off the 2013 fundraising campaign for the Kidney Walk.
“What we’re doing here today is the official kick-off of the five kidney walks here on Vancouver Island,” said Ron Walker, B.C. president. “Walks take place in Victoria, Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Courtenay and Port Alberni.”
The Nanaimo walk – actually a walk, run or paddle event – happens at Maffeo Sutton Park Aug. 18.
Walker said the organization is focusing this year on raising money to expand its programs to tackle kidney disease triggered by diabetes, which is on the rise in North America. There is also an emphasis this year to get more volunteers to participate and raise awareness about the spread of diabetes and its effect on kidney disease statistics.
Mary Ruth Harris, Comox Valley representative, said it is currently the fastest growing disease, affecting one in 10 Canadians.
An estimated 250,000 British Columbians have diabetes and many of those, she said, are not even aware they have it.
“Dialysis is the only option,” Harris said. “There is no cure for kidney disease and if you have to dialysize, it is three times a week, up to five hours a day.”
Harris said many patients from the North Island must travel long distances three times a week for their treatments.
“Everybody needs volunteers and we need community support,” Harris said. “We need every size business to get behind these walks to help raise the profile and to get people out doing the walks and going out and getting sponsorship.”
The walk will follow the waterfront from Maffeo Sutton Park north to Nanaimo Shipyards and back and is divided into a 10-kilometre walk, a five-kilometre run and a paddle by Nanaimo dragon boat teams, which will paddle a parallel route to the walk on Newcastle Channel.
“We start out walking around the park so that the kidney patients can participate and then drop out,” Walker said.
This is the first year runners will take part in the event.
“With the Running Room, one of our big things is we support a lot of charities throughout North America,” said Bill Taylor, Running Room area manager for Vancouver Island. “We’re a leader in doing runs, so we have an opportunity to develop courses with them and get a lot of people interested with our local run groups, so that it’ll help bring out the number of people who are supporting the event and raise more funds for the charity.”
Last year about 60 people who raised $15,000 took part in the Nanaimo walk, Walker said.
For information or to participate, please visit the Kidney Foundation website at www.kidney.ca/bcwalk.