For six decades (it celebrates its 60th anniversary this year), National Kidney Foundation of Arizona has provided awareness, assistance and hope to Arizonans impacted by kidney disease. Leslie A. McReynolds, CEO, discusses how the nonprofit got its start in the 1960’s and its upcoming fundraising events.
What prompted the start of the nonprofit? For a kidney patient, dialysis is critical, as the machine filters the toxins from your body that your kidneys are no longer filtering for you. Back in 1963, dialysis machines were limited in quantity, and it would cost a patient upwards of $25,000 a year to access one. The treatment was simply out of reach for many. The foundation began as the Arizona Kidney Foundation – born of one goal – to raise enough funds to help kidney patients afford to dialyze. There is no cure for kidney disease, so making this treatment accessible was vital. The goal was simply to make dialysis affordable for one patient – then one more – then one more.
Later, once Medicare became available to help with treatment costs, the foundation was able to shift its fundraising efforts to help in other life-impacting ways: help with medication, transportation to dialysis, dental work, and more. For a kidney patient, attending dialysis treatments three to four times a week, three to four hours per day, can have a tremendous effect on one’s health, energy levels, and sometimes the ability to maintain a full-time job. Today, the organization (now known as the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona) exists to ease the burden of those living with kidney disease, while helping others detect kidney issues early enough to prevent further damage. Our programs serve all of Arizona, and aim to address kidney disease from multiple approaches – direct emergency patient aid, early-detection screenings, professional education, kidney transplant advocacy and more.
What is the greatest reward in being involved with the nonprofit? There is no greater reward than knowing you are directly and immediately impacting, and even saving lives. Every day, we show up knowing our work, combined with the Arizona community’s incredible support, gets a patient to their life-saving dialysis appointment, gets them the dental work they needed to qualify for a transplant, or makes a person aware of their kidney issues for the first time.
What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? One in seven Arizonans have kidney disease, yet 90 percent don’t know it because its symptoms present as everyday ailments. Our biggest challenge is getting the message of early detection to all Arizonans, giving them the chance to catch kidney damage early enough to make preventative changes. If you or your immediate family have a history of diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, you are at high risk for kidney problems. A simple blood and urine test can tell you how well your kidneys are functioning.
What are your goals for the remainder of 2023? National Kidney Foundation of Arizona will continue to rise and meet the increasing emergency needs of the patient community is serves. In addition, we seek to increase the number of free community health screenings and transplant advocacy workshops we offer, striving to address kidney disease with both early prevention and more life-changing kidney donations.
How can readers help? There are many ways you can help. Consider making a monthly donation to ensure Arizona’s kidney patients continue to get the life-saving rides, medications and other services they need. Every dollar truly makes a difference. You can also follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and help spread the word about kidney health, or volunteer at one of our many community events.
Does the nonprofit have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? Absolutely! Right around the corner is our NKF Golf Classic, held on Nov. 17, 2023, at Whirlwind Golf Club, followed by our signature gala, Dancing with the Stars Arizona, on March 15, 2024, at The Phoenician, and our Kidney Walk in April 2024. For more details, visit www.azkidney.org or call us at 602.840.1644.