It’s a frightening statistic: The Washington, DC area leads the nation in the prevalence of kidney disease. But there’s hope. The Kidney Ball is one of the National Kidney Foundation’s largest one-day fundraisers, raising funds to support medical research and other critical initiatives. To keep the momentum going, George Wilson, a respected voice in the area’s business community, is lending his name and efforts to the cause. This fall, Mr. Wilson will serve as chair of the 2011 Kidney Ball. In the following Q&A, Mr. Wilson shares details about the event and how it will help individuals and families cope with what is one of the most prevalent but overlooked health challenges in the United States today.
WashingtonExec: Why did you choose to chair the 2011 Kidney Ball?
George Wilson: Like business and other functions in Washington, DC, our connections often lead us in directions we might not have planned to go. That is the case for me and my involvement with the Kidney Ball and the National Kidney Foundation. I was introduced to the National Kidney Foundation and to Tony Englert, the President of the NKF Serving the National Capital Area, through Michael O’Grady and Carleton Jones. After attending several Kidney Ball events I joined the Kidney Ball executive committee and witnessed first-hand the hard work and dedication of the local Kidney Foundation staff and the executive committee. That involvement led to my role in this year’s event, which I am so pleased to be able to support.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 26 million Americans –more than 13 percent of the adult population – have kidney disease and most don’t know it. They are also unaware that diabetes and hypertension are the leading causes of kidney disease—all three of these diseases are very pervasive in our community. As business leaders we have a social responsibility to the community at large. Working with non-profit partners, we can make a significant difference in the lives of many.
WashingtonExec: Why is this event important to the Washington community?
George Wilson: I was really struck by the numbers. The Washington, DC area has the highest prevalence of kidney disease in the nation, with more than 700,000 people affected, nearly 6,000 on dialysis, and more than 1,500 waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
Support of the Kidney Ball allows the National Kidney Foundation to prevent kidney disease in our region through early detection screening and follow-up for those at risk, public education, and primary care physician education. In addition to the early detection of kidney disease, the Foundation funds research, provides patient services, and sponsors a variety of initiatives designed to increase the number of organ donors in this country. Right now, more than 110,000 Americans are on the waiting list for organ transplants. The shortage of donors is so severe that two-thirds of the people on the list will die before receiving a donated organ.
WashingtonExec: What can attendees expect to find at this year’s gala?
George Wilson: The 2011 Kidney Ball will feature gourmet dining, live and silent auctions, dancing, and a special performance by KC & the Sunshine Band! A special highlight of the evening will be a video featuring kidney transplant recipient Stuart Bloch, Chairman of Congressional Bank, and his transplant surgeon Dr. Keith Melancon from Georgetown University Hospital. Bloch took part in the historic kidney exchange involving 26 individuals – 13 donors and 13 recipients. The Kidney Ball promises to be an inspirational and entertaining evening for all.
WashingtonExec: Are there tickets still available?
George Wilson: Corporate tables, ranging in price from $5,000 – $50,000, are still available but they are going quickly! Individual tickets are $350. For more information, visit www.kidneywdc.org or call 202.244.7900 ext. 28.
WashingtonExec: How much money do you expect the Kidney Ball to raise this year?
George Wilson: We are setting our sights on $1.3 million through corporate support, tickets sales, and the live and silent auctions. Of course we would love to raise more! Supporting the National Kidney Foundation is a good investment – of every dollar raised, 85 cents goes to programs and services.
WashingtonExec: What is the National Kidney Foundation doing about the organ donor shortage?
George Wilson: As I mentioned, more than 110,000 people are on the waiting list for organs, including 90,000 waiting for a kidney. Every two hours someone on the waiting list for a kidney transplant dies. To address this complex problem, the National Kidney Foundation has developed a comprehensive action plan called END THE WAIT! to increase the number of transplants for kidney patients. Through collaboration among many organizations and agencies, NKF’s END THE WAIT! recommendations are designed to eliminate barriers, institute best practices across the country, improve the transplant system, cover the cost of donating an organ, reduce regional and ethnic disparities, and increase living and deceased donation throughout the United States.