At first, the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland was a place for Owings Mills residents Rose and Jeffrey Karlan to find resources and support, as their newborn son, Harrison, underwent dialysis for two nonfunctioning kidneys beginning three days into his life.
In a short period of time, the foundation became a source of comfort and outlet for memories. Harrison passed away on Feb. 13, 2013 at only 3½ months old.
On April 19, the couple will join thousands of others at the Greater Baltimore Kidney Walk, where they will remember their son.
“I became involved with the kidney walk while sitting in the NICU with Harrison and hoped that he would be able to join us during the May 2013 walk,” Rose Karlan said via email. “After he passed away, I used the walk as a place to remember him and as an opportunity to help other families like my own.”
She and her husband may have a baby in tow, having given birth to their daughter, Ivy Elliott Karlan, on March 26.
“She has two working kidneys, which I am more than grateful for,” Karlan said. “She looks a lot like her brother, Harrison.”
The Greater Baltimore Kidney Walk, in its 13th year, is the foundation’s largest annual fundraiser. Last year, the walk raised more than $375,000 with more than 5,000 walkers, according to development manager Avril Christens-Barry. It was the fifth-largest kidney walk in the country last year.
“It’s a huge awareness piece for us,” Christens-Barry said.
A majority of the funds raised come from walk teams and sponsorships, she added.
The foundation funds medical research, conducts public education, provides free health screenings and offers income assistance to low-income dialysis and transplant patients.
The kidney walk raised more than $375,000 last year with more than 5,000 participants, making it the nation’s fifth-largest kidney walk.
“On any given day in Maryland approximately 9,300 individuals are on dialysis, and over 2,600 are awaiting a kidney transplant,” Traci Barnett, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in a news release. “Through this walk event, the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland is building awareness, driving prevention and supporting treatment of kidney disease.”
At the walk, participants will be greeted by mascots and entertainment, including the Ravens Super Fans, the Towson University mascot and stilt walkers, a DJ, a dance performance, face painting and hands-on activities for kids and adults. Adults can also take a free Kidney Health Risk Assessment and receive brief medical consultations.
Although Rose Karlan’s pregnancy prevented her from being as active as she was in previous walks, she still raised close to $700. In 2013, she formed a team of more than 70 walkers, many of whom returned the next year, and she raised more than $1,000 each year. She held fundraisers at the Cardinal Tavern in Baltimore, which donated bar sales, and raised money though raffles for gift cards and gift baskets. Little Italy restaurant Joe Benny’s, owned by the Karlans’ friend Joey Gardella, named a sandwich after Harrison and raised funds through a contest at the restaurant.
“I have greatly enjoyed my experience with the kidney walk,” Rose Karlan said. “It really gives me an outlet to focus on and allows me to remember Harrison on a specific day each year other than just the day of his birth and his death.”