In 2008, Olivia Hall of Stettler was asked to be the honorary chairperson for the Kidney Foundation’s “Give the Gift of Life Run and Walk” in Red Deer.
She had participated in the 2007 walk with her family.
Hall not only embraced the honorary title in 2008, but she has served in the same role for each of the past four years.
Hall, now 13, was just five years old when she was diagnosed with a condition known as Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), an ailment that causes dysfunction of the kidney tissues, which filter her blood.
It means that, along with her regular activities of school, baseball and spending time with friends, Hall adds to her routine the intake of medication to keep her kidneys functioning, as well as regular biopsies to monitor how her kidneys are doing.
This past March, Hall experienced a relapse when her kidneys stopped doing their job. She was put on a medication called Prednisone, which is a steroid, to start her kidneys functioning again, but the high dosage came with some intense side effects.
Family members said she was always tired, unable to concentrate, became anxious, gained weight, and missed many school days, including her final exams. She also missed a lot of ball season, which is something she really enjoys.
None of those setbacks, however, stopped Hall from participating in this year’s walk and run. As the honorary chairperson, she promotes the “Gift of Life” walk and the goals behind it: to raise money for research and to bring awareness to the importance of becoming an organ donor.
Hall said even though people might have signed an organ donor card, it is equally important for organ donors to let their families know before the decision has to be made, or it could be too late.
“Your family has to know,” she said. “They have to give consent.”
During the rest of the year, Hall participates in other events, such as M&M barbecues and the “Red Deer Has Talent” show.
“I do it because it is important that people know about kidney disease and that it happens to a lot of people,” she said.
In fact, each day, an average of 14 Canadians learn that their kidneys have failed.
While she admits that it is sometimes difficult to get up in front of a lot of people and talk, the rewards come because “I am helping the Kidney Foundation and hopefully there will be a cure for me,” Hall said.
The walk gives families and friends a way to support their loved ones who are suffering with kidney disease.
“My family comes to the Run and Walk with me, my grandma and grandpa come to it, and sometimes my uncle and his friends, too,” she said.
“My friends have come to the walk. They think it’s cool.”
The pride shines though when Whitney Hall, Olivia’s mom, talks about her daughter.
“She has grown and matured in a way that is possible because of her involvement,” Whitney said.
“I see her confidence come through when she speaks at events. Through the Run and Walk, we have made some very good friends who are part of our ‘Kidney Family.’ It’s important to us to volunteer our time to such a personal cause.”
This year’s “Give the Gift of Life Run and Walk” in Red Deer takes place Sept. 11.
Mandatory registration for the walk is at 9 a.m. at the Great Chief Park, Kiwanis Picnic Shelter. The walk begins at 10:30 a.m.
To register or to donate, visit http://www.kidney.ca/Page.aspx?pid=1352, or call 403-392-4935.