By Dan McDonald
For Hometown News
BREVARD -- Savanna Pitard, special events coordinator for the National Kidney Foundation of Florida, is looking for people willing to get sand in their shoes for a good cause - the second annual Footprints in the Sand Beach Walk Saturday, May 4.
Starting with an 8 a.m. check-in at the Cocoa Beach Pier, volunteer fundraisers will secure pledges and then walk approximately three miles on the beach at 9 a.m. to generate money for the NKFF, funds that will help some of the estimated 60,396 Brevardians who either currently have chronic kidney disease or who are at risk to develop it in their lives.
The money will be used for outreach, education and small bills, such as transportation or household bills.
"Last year, we had approximately 400 people show up for our first Beach Walk," said Ms. Pitard, 23, who has been involved in battling kidney disease most of her life, first as a volunteer and now as a career. "This year, we're hoping to have 500 people, who can reach our target of $50,000."
According to Ms. Pitard, many people are at risk for developing kidney disease - especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history - and the need for funds is ever-increasing, as more and more people are diagnosed and begin the arduous treatment protocols.
"Right here in Brevard, there are currently nine kidney dialysis centers, treating more than 700 patients a day, and nationally there are 95,000 people waiting for kidney transplants," said Ms. Pitard, who grew up in Cocoa Beach and who has been surfing in the annual Kidney Foundation Surf Contest since she was 11.
"Sadly, on average, 13 people die each day, while waiting for a kidney transplant, and it's estimated that kidney disease will impact about one in nine Americans, either for them personally, or for someone in their family," she added. "It's a big problem, and that's why we're holding the fundraiser. Not just to raise money, but also to raise awareness of the scope of this disease."
Bill Hahn of Rockledge knows firsthand the impact of the disease.
"I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 26," said Mr. Hahn, now 56. "My kidney finally gave out when I was 52, and I received a kidney and a pancreas transplant on New Year's Eve of 2009. Since then, I'm doing very well."
"I was a good candidate," Mr. Hahn added. "I ran 20 miles a day, while I was on dialysis, and now I'm almost back up to that distance now. I could be back to that distance, but my main focus now is spreading information about this disease. That's why I took part in the first walk last year and will be doing it again this year."
Mr. Hahn, who recently closed his exercise equipment business to care for an aging father, wrote a book about his experiences called "The Silver Lining," which is his story told in poems, pictures and information.
"It was my way of coping with the disease," Mr. Hahn said of the autobiographical book. "You don't want to obsess 24 hours a day, while you're fighting this disease, but you have to have some way of dealing with the stress. I found putting things in writing helped me, and now I use that to help educate others. I actually went through blindness. There are a lot of side effects of the treatment and the disease. Now, through the book and my own outreach, I try to help others, who are coping with kidney problems."
For those seeking more information about the Beach Walk or donating funds, visit floridakidneywalk.org, or call (321) 298-4437.