Cause For Ap­plause

The un­re­lent­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion of a three-year-old boy

More of Our Canada - - Contents - By Kirstin Lehmann, Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.

Each year, the Kid­ney Foun­da­tion of South­ern Al­berta hosts a 100-kilo­me­tre walk, over three days, called the Kid­ney March. In 2017, our son Sam’s grand­mother took part for the fifth time and we, as a fam­ily, de­cided to draw in­spi­ra­tion from this march to set our own goal of walk­ing 100 kilo­me­tres in 100 days. With that in mind, we gave Sam the nick­name of “Mini Marcher,” and set out on our daily jour­ney. The sun’s early morn­ing glow shined down on me as I fol­lowed my tiny tod­dler march­ing along the route, weav­ing on and off the park path­ways as he col­lected pine cones and dan­de­lions.

Most tod­dlers are known for their bound­less en­ergy, but Sam is a bit dif­fer­ent. Only two years old at the time, he was al­ready chan­nelling his en­ergy into pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive change via his march to raise aware­ness for kid­ney dis­ease and liv­ing-or­gan do­na­tion.

A tod­dler walk­ing 100 kilo­me­tres in 100 days? When we told our fam­ily and friends about Sam’s quest, peo­ple met us with skep­ti­cism and shock. No one had heard of a two-yearold do­ing any­thing like this be­fore, prob­a­bly be­cause no other two-year-old had ever at­tempted it, un­til Sam came along. It seemed very nat­u­ral to my hus­band and me, be­cause Sam had al­ways loved long walks out in na­ture and we were sim­ply fol­low­ing his nat­u­ral pas­sion.

When we first started walk­ing with Sam in 2017, he loved his “kilo­me­tre of the day“and of­ten had his shoes on be­fore we could even put on our socks. By the fi­nal kilo­me­tres, Sam still couldn’t get enough of it and we of­ten had to cut him off at the two- or three­k­ilo­me­tre mark be­cause he just wanted to keep go­ing and go­ing. He quickly be­came a fix­ture in our com­mu­nity, wear­ing his red “Kid­ney March” shirt and proudly walk­ing along, with his pine cone bucket. As he passed by lo­cal shops, store own­ers waved and popped out to say hello. They even handed Sam lol­lipops to en­joy while on his march. For some­one so small, he’s a sur­pris­ingly well-known fig­ure in our town.

WHY KID­NEY DIS­EASE?

Coming from a long line of fam­ily mem­bers who have suf­fered from this dis­ease, and many fam­ily mem­bers who have ei­ther re­ceived kid­ney trans­plants, been on dial­y­sis or have do­nated kid­neys, we knew it was the right choice. As kid­ney dis­ease af­fects one in ten Cana­di­ans and 16 peo­ple are told their kid­neys have failed each day, it’s a big is­sue that af­fects many Cana­di­ans and their fam­i­lies. Sam doesn’t fully un­der­stand the con­cept he’s walk­ing for but when asked, he’ll gladly show you where his kid­neys are and maybe even tell you a bit about what they do, but one thing is for cer­tain—he knows without a doubt that he’s walk­ing for his Granny, for his cousins, for his aunt and un­cle.

It has al­ready been well over 18 months (Spring 2017) since Sam’s first walk, how­ever, his jour­ney is nowhere near over. Now al­most four years old, he walked his 100 kilo­me­tres again in the sum­mer of 2018, and is al­ready think­ing about

walk­ing again in 2019 for a third straight year. This year in par­tic­u­lar was very spe­cial, be­cause other chil­dren across Canada joined in the jour­ney and walked their own 100 kilo­me­tres. De­spite be­ing sep­a­rated by cities and prov­inces, they joined due to their own per­sonal con­nec­tions to kid­ney dis­ease and for their love of walk­ing.

Sam’s jour­ney has now led him to in­cred­i­ble places. In 2017, he walked at the Al­berta leg­is­la­ture with the Min­is­ter of Health, Sarah Hoff­man, and was later in­tro­duced at the Al­berta Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly to be hon­oured for his ef­forts. In 2018, his tod­dler move­ment ex­panded to group walks with the other mini marchers in the prov­ince, and led to a walk with Al­berta’s Mem­ber of the Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly, Jes­sica Lit­tle­wood, to feed a lo­cal flock of sheep.

Sum­mer 2018 also marked Sam’s first year of fundrais­ing and he hap­pily sur­passed his self-cho­sen goal of $600 with the sup­port of our lo­cal com­mu­nity. His jour­ney was recorded, com­piled into mile­stone videos and shared on the Kid­ney Foun­da­tion’s Face­book page. He be­came an im­me­di­ate in­spi­ra­tion to those suf­fer­ing with the dis­ease. It’s our dream for peo­ple to hear Sam’s mes­sage and con­sider do­nat­ing to the Kid­ney Foun­da­tion of Canada or maybe even con­sider be­com­ing an or­gan donor them­selves.

We hope to see a world where kid­ney dis­ease is cur­able and no longer dev­as­tates so many fam­i­lies. Un­til that day comes, Sam will keep walk­ing, be­cause, to para­phrase the words of Lao Tzu: “Ev­ery great jour­ney be­gins with a sin­gle step.” ■

Clock­wise from left: Sam on one of his many walks; Sam and his mom, Kirstin, shar­ing a happy mo­ment; Sam pic­tured while clown­ing around in what has be­come known as the “fa­mous Sam photo“taken at the Kid­ney Foun­da­tion of­fice in 2017.

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