South Okanagan woman who donated a kidney now volunteering for local Kidney Walk

'Everyday hero' giving back

A local woman hailed as an 'everyday hero' for donating her kidney after her brother needed a new one is at the forefront for this year's South Okanagan Kidney Walk.

Valerie joined the volunteer team for the Kidney Foundation of Canada after she was invited by a colleague to join the Kidney Walk last year, dedicated to giving back to those living with the disease.

"It all began on Valentines Day in 1965 when Valerie’s older brother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11. By his late teens the diabetes was affecting his kidneys and in 1980 he was advised by the doctors his kidneys were failing," the foundation shared in a press release.

"Kidney Disease in the 1980s was no longer the death sentence it had been in the 1960."

Once Grant’s kidneys failed, his best hope for a full life and long-term survival was a kidney transplant.

"When Grant shared the news with his siblings, they all stepped forward to be tested but according to Valerie she was the lucky match and had the privilege of donating to her brother."

On Oct. 18, 1983, Valerie donated her right kidney to her brother.

Then in 2023, she joined the Kidney Walk, knowing what it was like to live with kidney disease..

Valerie said she is passionate about raising awareness of the importance of one’s kidney health and the benefits of organ donation.

The foundation said one in 10 British Columbian’s are at risk of kidney disease and many don’t even know it.

"Healthy lifestyle choices can help most people ensure they never reach kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant to survive, but sadly that is not yet the case for everyone," they added.

This year, Valerie and her brother Grant are set to share their remarkable tale of hope and resilience.

Grant said for him, receiving a fatal diagnosis at a young age and then having it completely reversed through a living donor transplant is "nothing short of a miracle." .

Valerie said as she looks back on her journey, she is filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to share her spare and urges others to do the same.

She calls her remaining kidney a “super kidney” as her bloodwork is as good or better than most people her age

“The donation process ensures that you are in the best health possible before they will even consider taking a kidney," she added.

The foundation said for all those whose lives have been touched by kidney disease, the Kidney Walk isn't just a walk.

"It’s a symbol of the resilience of everyday people, bringing together a community of support, and raising funds to provide hope for the endless possibilities that lie ahead."

Funds raised go towards education and resources, optimal quality of life for those affected by kidney disease with supports and advocacy and helping innovative research for better prevention, treatments and the ultimate hope of finding a cure for kidney disease.

"Let us be reminded of the incredible impact one person and the gift of one spare kidney can make in this world."

People are invited to lace up their walking shoes to join Valerie and Grant, at this year’s South Okanagan Kidney walk on June 2 at 8:30 a.m. at Gyro Park in Penticton.

The Kelowna/Central Okanagan walk takes place on June 2 at 11 a.m. starting at Gyro Beach Park.

The Kamloops walk takes place on June 2 at 11 a.m. starting at McDonald Park.

The Vernon/North Okanagan walk takes place on June 2 at 10 a.m. starting at Polson Park

Registering to walk and/or donating can be done at KidneyWalk.ca

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