(Above Photo)  Kidney Donor Athletes’ One Kidney Climb.  Twenty-two kidney donors climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to promote living donor organ transplants.

Our society is accustomed to complete strangers donating gifts to people they do not know.  It is not unusual for gifts to be solicited by and given through a community or faith-based organization to others or given directly by the giver to those in need.  Cash, toys, household items, clothing are among the top gifts given by a stranger to another stranger.  Receivers are elated to receive much needed help and givers oftentimes experience feelings of satisfaction and joy when they can help others.

In addition to the most common gifts, there are some gifts that are not so obvious but nonetheless helpful. “Generous acts happen every day, numerous times, in the form of blood donations, providing [positive] restaurant reviews online, flashing bright lights on the highway to warn of a [speed trap], and so on,” according to Dr. Francis J. Flynn who specializes in human behavior.  Dr. Flynn and other psychologists call this type of human practice “prosocial behavior” — making charitable contributions, buying gifts, volunteering one’s time are a few examples.

There is an emerging type of giver who is unique due to the kind of gift they offer strangers.  They are living donors who are athletes, and they exhibit prosocial behavior.  They are altruistic organ donors.  Donating a kidney to a stranger is becoming a mainstream act of random kindness thanks to this group of givers.  These organ donors have organized and coalesced into a worldwide organization, Kidney Donor Athletes.  According to their website, their organization promotes the gift of life through living kidney donation.  They are dedicated to building a community that inspires, supports, and educates people about the experience of kidney donation.

An example of their education component involves demonstrating through action the fullness of life post organ donation.  For instance, on World Kidney Day in March 2022, Kidney Donor Athletes sponsored “One Kidney Climb.”  Twenty-two kidney donors climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  “The purpose of this climb is to show people around the world that it’s possible to thrive on one kidney,” said Tracey Hulick, founder of Kidney Donor Athletes in an interview with Good Morning America (GMA).

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One Kidney Climb: Kilimanjaro 2022

“Hulick and the rest of the climbers are part of 22 separate donation chains. When someone donates to a stranger on behalf of someone they know, it sets off a chain reaction and an opportunity for many more lives to be saved. The donors who are taking part in the climb have different reasons for donating,” Angeline Jane Bernabe quoted Hulick in an article for GMA.

Member Samantha Carreiro of Dover, New Hampshire, lost a classmate who couldn’t find a bone marrow donor.  She pledged then that as an adult if given the chance to help somebody she would.  That chance came when Carreiro eventually donated a kidney to a spin instructor at her gym.

Steve Wilson of Katonah, New York, was inspired to become a kidney donor when a friend’s daughter received a kidney from a donor.  Wilson perceived the donation as an “ultimate act of selflessness.”  He later donated a kidney to a 56-year-old woman in Seattle.

In her article for GMA, Bernabe wrote, “Through their climb, the Kidney Donor Athletes are hoping to get the message out there that it’s possible to live on one kidney, and they hope to inspire others to donate, too.”  The climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is only one of many types of activities.  Members also cycle, run, compete in body building contests and other athletic events.

Patty Graham, a Kidney Donor Athlete from Boulder, Colorado explains her prosocial behavior, “Something that’s important to all of us is to normalize kidney donations.  We’re not heroes, we’re normal people. We lead normal lives. In fact, all the donors — I know our lives are even better and more enhanced after donation.”

Living donors can get involved with Kidney Donor Athletes by sharing their story, “A great way to get involved is to submit your story to become one of our featured athletes. These stories have inspired many people to donate and help ease the fears of folks that are in the process of donating,” founder Tracey Hulick states on the Kidney Donor Athletes website.

If you have one kidney due to organ donation and wish to participate in athletic events, you can join a One Kidney Club or start one in your area.  Learn how here.

According to UNOS, 106,123 people need a lifesaving organ transplant, the majority are waiting for a new kidney.  Last year, more than 6,500 people became living organ donors.  The kidney is the most commonly transplanted organ from a living donor. One entire kidney is removed and transplanted. Becoming a Living Donor is much easier than most people think.

  • Over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month.
  • 13 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
  • Every 14 minutes someone is added to the kidney transplant list.

Anyone can register to become an organ donor at RegisterMe.org.  Living donors and organ recipients can contact National Foundation for Transplants when they need help raising funds for out-of-pocket transplant-related expenses.  We exist to help transplant patients through their most difficult times get to their most wonderful times.  You can support their transplant journey with a financial gift.