Published in The Ithaca Journal, April 8th 2010
ITHACA – Jonathan LaChance sits with his laptop at the downtown Ithaca Starbucks, his hazel eyes intently focused on the screen. It’s a busy time for all college students, but this 22-year old Ithaca College senior is working on a unique final project – “5K for Kidneys”, the city’s first fundraiser run and walk for patients of kidney disease, scheduled for Saturday morning, April 10th in Cass Park.
LaChance and fellow health sciences student Kim Jacobson began planning the event in early February. “Kim and I started advertising. We started going out and getting donations,” he says. “It required a lot of footwork – phone calls, emails, personalized cover letters, meeting people early in the morning or 10 at night. But it was worth it.”
For LaChance, the cause is personal. He still remembers the day his father was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease 13 years ago. “We had expected it,” he says, referring to his paternal family’s history with the disease. “But I didn’t really consider it a huge deal, until my own father.”
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is one of the most common of all life-threatening genetic disorders, affecting more than 60,000 Americans. It is characterized by the formation of fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys, which multiply over time, and eventually cause the kidneys to fail. There is no known cure for PKD, though patients may delay its progression by making certain lifestyle choices. “My dad is 53 now, which is great,” says LaChance. “But his kidneys will fail within a few years, and he will need dialysis or a transplant.”
LaChance is also aware of the likelihood of having the disease himself. “But I can make those choices already,” he says optimistically. Staying physically fit – LaChance competed in track throughout high school – controlling blood pressure, limiting sodium and alcohol intake are some of them. “If a fellow needs a DD (designated driver), I will be the DD,” he says with a laugh.
Most encouraging of all to LaChance as the event approaches is that his father, David LaChance, is driving 500 miles from Waterville, Maine to participate. “This project has given him motivation to exercise,” Jonathan LaChance says. “My dad’s always been a manual laborer, the hardest-working guy I know, but he’s never actually gone to the gym. Four weeks ago, he got a gym membership.” Jon’s face lights up with a smile. “I’m really proud of my dad.”
“5K for Kidneys”, jointly sponsored by the Cayuga Medical Center and National Kidney Foundation (NKF), has received generous donations from the Ithaca community. All proceeds will go to a special account at the NKF for patients in the Ithaca area.