Working for Kidney Patients Inside and Outside the Lab

For Relypsa, a biotech innovation company based in Redwood, CA, it’s not enough to develop life-saving therapeutics for kidney patients.

“Our mission is to improve the lives of patients on all levels,” said Alex Dobbin, Associate Director of Investor Relations at Relypsa. “Our patient-first focus has translated to our business goals and our community involvement.”

The company and its employees have embraced their patient focus by partnering with, and supporting, the National Kidney Foundation through the Kidney Walk.

As a company, Relypsa has developed the first approved medicine in more than 50 years to treat hyperkalemia, a life-threatening condition common in kidney patients who have or are approaching kidney failure. As a walk team, Relypsa has raised over $66,000 at Kidney Walks across the San Francisco Bay Area over the past two years.

“The Kidney Walk is a great opportunity to come together and help out the community,” Dobbin said.  “It’s a way for us to express the values that make our company and employees unique. We responded by coming together and celebrating the community we’re working for.”

Many employees at Relypsa have personal connections to kidney disease. Paulynn Dorotheo, Director of Consultant Data Management at Relypsa, had a grandfather pass away from kidney disease. Other Relypsa employees have similar connections to kidney disease.

“For many of us, it’s a family disease,” Dorotheo said. “So our participation is personal, and it’s our way of helping others while we’re working to prolong and improve the quality of life for patients.”

In 2014, Relypsa Kidney Walkers raised $14,000. In 2015, the team raised over $38,003. With corporate sponsorship, Relypsa and their employees have raised over $66,000 in two years.

Funds raised by Relypsa have supported public awareness programs, free local kidney health screenings, NKF advocacy efforts and medical education for professionals across the country.

“The Kidney Walk is a special event for us because it brings us back to our mission,” Dobbin said. “We’re a purpose-led team, and Kidney Walks give us the chance to honor the patients we aim to serve and the values which bring us together.”

Relypsa Kidney Walkers

Relypsa Kidney Walkers

Be A Part of the Movement for World Kidney Day!

As you lace up your walking shoes for the 2016 Kidney Walk season, we need you to help us create a movement raising more awareness of the importance of the kidneys to our overall health for National Kidney Month and especially World Kidney Day on March 10th.

We’ve created a National Kidney Month Toolbox with everything you need and now we need you to get moving on social media!

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  1. Repost a social media message on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Or create your own! Remember to use our hashtags #NationalKidneyMonth and #WorldKidneyDay.
  2. Change your profile picture to a photo of you at Kidney Walk or use our National Kidney Month photo.
  3. Share your favorite video, story or poster from the Toolbox!

Together, we can create a movement and make a difference in the lives of kidney patients and their families.

Check your kidneys

One Walk Begins a Journey

National Team Spotlight: Team Aetna

Thanks to one inspiring woman, Team Aetna has made a name for themselves at the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Walk.

For Itty Beck, becoming involved with the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) was no question. At the age of 11, her brother Justin Beck was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.  The diabetes caused many health issues, and Justin was forced to undergo a kidney transplant at the age of 30 and a pancreas transplant 3 years later.

Having witnessed how the transplant changed her brother’s life, Itty knew she had to pay it forward.

Christine, Justin, Itty in 2014

Christine, Justin, Itty in 2014

“Once I saw how the transplant changed my brother’s life, I knew I wanted to donate. But the timing was never right and I wasn’t fully aware of how to make that happen,” said Beck.

Through a mutual friend, Itty learned of a woman named Christine awaiting a kidney transplant, and jumped at the opportunity to see if she was a match. Unfortunately, Itty was not a match for Christine but UPMC Montefiore hospital suggested the two women participate in a kidney exchange program.  On December 27, 2012, Itty was approved to be a donor. And within two days, matches were found with 10 people from all over the country participating in the swap.

With both her brother and new friend, Christine, inspiring her to take action in the fight against kidney disease, Itty searched for the right opportunity to get involved. In 2013, thanks to the support and generosity of her friends and family, Itty formed a team of 12 walkers called “Team Share Your Spare” to rally in the Pittsburgh Kidney Walk.

Team Share Your Spare in 2013

                                Team Share Your Spare in 2013

“When I learned of the walk and where it took place, I couldn’t help but think of what a perfect coincidence it was.” said Beck.  “My family and I were actually at the Pittsburgh Zoo the day that my brother started acting a little strange and we took him straight to Children’s hospital.  It was that day that would change our lives forever as he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.”What Itty did not realize was that this one walk was only the beginning of her journey with NKF. The following year, with support from her company, Aetna, Itty pursued the process of forming a corporate team.  By 2015, Itty had worked with multiple Aetna locations to form additional teams across the country, taking on the role as National Lead.

To date, Itty has spurred 15 teams across the country, totaling 150 walkers, and together raising $17,000.00.

“I thank my bosses and my management teams for allowing me take on the role of National Lead,” said Beck. “I love being that voice for my company, and having the ability to work together with Aetna employees from all over the country has been an awesome experience. I’m amazed by how many people have responded so positively.”

Justin is now 36 years old and continues to do very well. Both Christine and Itty are in great health. Itty encourages everyone who is interested in forming their own corporate team to become a leader at their workplace and “go all out.”

“I am so thankful of how much my life has improved since donating my kidney,” said Beck. “That one decision set so many others into motion and I’m so excited for the opportunities that are still to come.”

2015 Kidney Walk Thank You Video

At the 91 kidney walks around the country last year, we broke some big records — 85,000 walkers, 6,300 teams and more than $9 million dollars raised. That will go a long way to fighting kidney disease and funding NKF’s life-saving programs and initiatives. National Kidney Foundation CEO Kevin Longino has a special thank you message to all those who participated in a 2015 Kidney Walk. Did you see him at your local walk?

We look forward to seeing you again at a 2016 Kidney Walk! You can register today at www.kidneywalk.org

Kidney Walk T-Shirt Quilt Tells a Story

Keepsake Theme Quilts created a custom Kidney Walk T-shirt quilt for Paulette Burks, development manager with the National Kidney Foundation serving Central Ohio. 

Paulette Burks

Paulette Burks

My Kidney Walk T-shirt Quilt tells a story centered around my three heroes: William Diggs (Grandfather), David Anderson (Uncle), & Dr. Samuel Collier Sr. (My Boyfriend’s Father). Each of their journeys is different but all of them have two common factors: chronic kidney disease & me!

I first joined the NKF family as an intern in the Cincinnati office in September 2012. As you can imagine I was overly excited to work for an organization whose mission was my passion. My grandfather was on dialysis most of my life and passed away from CKD when I was 12. Three years later my uncle was told he was in renal failure and needed to begin dialysis immediately. By the time I was an intern my uncle had been on dialysis for 7 years. I knew what CKD was and its effects on my family but I wanted to learn more.  My time as a development intern provided me the opportunity to gain more knowledge on this disease and I will forever be grateful.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remain an intern forever so I began my search for a position with the National Kidney Foundation! I didn’t find any opportunities with NKF by the time I graduated so I ended up taking a for profit position.  BUT in September 2014 I was offered a temporary position as a Program Assistant in the Columbus, OH office! I wanted to work for NKF so bad that I risked everything by leaving a full time permanent position just to be with the organization I loved.  A few months later I met my boyfriend at a holiday party! He asked me what I did for a living and of course I went on a rant about NKF and how important it was to me. He smiled and said ironically my father is in renal failure tell me more. Since that day we’ve been inseparable all thanks to a little CKD connection.

I’ve had many ups and downs during my time with NKF. I became a permanent employee as a Program Manager who transitioned into a Development Manager. I’ve watched Sam’s dad battle this disease with many complications that have put him in and out of the hospital. Lastly, I was lucky enough to receive a call on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 when my uncle received a kidney!

My quilt represents my journey from a volunteer, intern, and employee of the National Kidney Foundation. It is a daily reminder of the three men I personally advocate on behalf of. I am so happy that Keepsake Theme Quilts were able to bring my vision to life. Keepsake ThemeQuilts has supported NKF with our Cooking with the Stars silent auction and we appreciate their generosity.

Philly’s Native Hip Hop Artist, Freeway, Walks With Purpose

More than 3,500 people took a lifesaving step in the fight against kidney disease by participating in the National Kidney Foundation’s 14th Annual Kidney Walk on October 11th. This year’s Kidney Walk was hosted by former Roc-A-Fella Records artist and Philadelphia native MC, Freeway.

Freeway Ribbon Cutting

“My experience at the 14th Annual Kidney Walk was wonderful and the love I received from the people was breathtaking,” said Freeway. “I feel as though it’s important to educate people on early detection of kidney disease and awareness. I will continue to spread the message and I am looking forward to more events like this.”

Last month, without warning, the 37-year-old State Property MC and North Philadelphia native was diagnosed with kidney failure.

“I had a routine physical with my primary care doctor,” Freeway said. “The next week, I got a call from my doctor who told me to get to the closest emergency room because my kidney levels were off. My kidneys were failing and I didn’t even realize it. I was in tears trying to understand it all.”

Freeway is committed to raising awareness of kidney disease and ensuring Philadelphians stay on top of their kidney health.

Team Freedom Fighters

Team Philadelphia Freedom Fighters

The event, held at the Philadelphia Art Museum raised more than $400,000 to help fund awareness, prevention and treatment programs aimed at bettering the lives of kidney patients, their families and those at risk.

For more information or to participate in a Kidney Walk near you, visit www.kidneywalk.org. To learn more about kidney disease, risk factors and ways to protect your kidneys, visit, www.kidney.org.

The National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families, and tens of millions of Americans at risk. Learn more about kidney disease and the Kidney Walk at www.kidneywalk.org.

View footage from NBC10 of Freeway at the Philadelphia Kidney Walk here: Rapper Freeway Raises Kidney Disease Awareness at Philly Kidney Walk

Making Life Better for Those Living with Kidney Disease

Inspired by Making Life Better for Those Living with Kidney Disease: Satellite Healthcare’s National Team at the NKF Kidney Walks

Satellite Healthcare teams made their way step-by-step through the U.S. participating in the NKF Kidney Walks.

NationalTeam1_Chicago

Staff from WellBound of Evanston in Skokie, IL, had a great time at the Chicago walk!

More than 30 teams with almost 600 team members raised awareness and funds at 11 walks from California to New Jersey. These teams formed the Satellite Healthcare National Team lead by President and CEO Rick Barnett.

Satellite Healthcare’s Tennessee team at the Memphis walk.

Satellite Healthcare’s Tennessee team at the Memphis walk.

“Satellite Healthcare was founded on the mission that we could offer a full quality of life to those living with kidney disease. The Kidney Walks give us the opportunity to be a leader in the CKD community alongside NKF. Our National Team is a great representative of Satellite Healthcare’s mission and values based on community, respect and excellence,” said Rick.

Satellite staff in Arizona enjoyed the Phoenix walk with their little ones.

Satellite staff in Arizona enjoyed the Phoenix walk with their little ones.

Satellite Healthcare has been a strong supporter of NKF for more than 40 years thanks to the unwavering passion its founder Dr. Norman S. Coplon had for patients with kidney disease. Under the leadership of Dr. Coplon, Satellite sold anything and everything, including pom poms at sporting events, in support of NKF.

In honor of its founder, at each walk this year the Satellite Healthcare teams passed out pom poms.

Left: Dr. Coplon with one of his famous pom poms at an NKF rally. Right: Across the country, Satellite honored Dr. Coplon with pom pom giveaways this year.

Left: Dr. Coplon with one of his famous pom poms at an NKF rally. Right: Across the country, Satellite honored Dr. Coplon with pom pom giveaways this year.

Participating and providing multi-market support of the Kidney Walks is just one example of the not-for-profit’s philanthropy in the CKD community. Satellite Healthcare has a well-recognized, enduring commitment to philanthropy and the CKD community, from funding millions of dollars in research grants to sponsoring kidney walks nationwide.

Dr. Coplon’s family continue to serve as active members of the Satellite family. Above: His wife, Sandy, and his dog, Yonkel, enjoy the first East Bay Kidney Walk.

Dr. Coplon’s family continue to serve as active members of the Satellite family. Above: His wife, Sandy, and his dog, Yonkel, enjoy the first East Bay Kidney Walk.

Satellite is committed to advancing the standard of chronic kidney disease care so patients can enjoy a better life.

For more information about Satellite Healthcare’s founder and commitment to NKF, visit the Norman S. Coplon Memorial Fund.