Kidney disease motivates TMS student
12-year-old and his family raise $4,700 for research efforts
Wyatt Maurer took an important stroll with his parents -- and about 600 other people -- earlier this month.
Wyatt, a 12-year-old who attends Tonganoxie Middle School, was born with kidney issues that required surgery days after he was born. About a year ago, he had to battle a kidney infection that kept him in the hospital for two weeks.
After that hospital stay, it was found that Wyatt has chronic kidney failure.
Because of Wyatt's condition, his mother, Stephanie Maurer, looked into ways of raising awareness and money in the fight against kidney disease.
In September, Stephanie was in search of possible fundraisers for kidney research. The closest one was in Texas -- at the National Kidney Foundation Walk in Fort Worth.
"When something affects you personally like that, you get pretty motivated," Stephanie said. "You get pretty passionate about something."
Wyatt and his parents, Stephanie and Andrew Maurer, participated in the three-mile walk at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
In the weeks leading up to the walk, they raised money.
Boy, did they ever raise money.
Stephanie started a Web site, firstgiving.com/stephaniemaurer, with information about their cause.
Heading into their first year of the event, Stephanie thought a goal of $1,500 would be a good benchmark.
Within a week, they had reached that goal.
In addition, the family received support from Tonganoxie elementary and middle schools.
TES counselor Lindsey Graf said the school had done drives in which children collected "pennies for patients." Some people at the school approached her about the idea.
"All I did was say 'great idea,'" Graf said. "I went and talked to Tammie (George, TES principal) and she said go with it, so we did."
For one week, students at TES brought in money for the Maurers' cause: pennies on Monday, nickels on Tuesday, dimes on Wednesday, quarters on Thursday and dollars on Friday.
Students raised about $650 at TES. At the middle school, students in the fifth and sixth grades had a different fundraiser. If a class raised $100, they were awarded an extra recess.
TMS students raised another $450.
From word of mouth in the community and from friends and relatives, the Maurers raised additional money for a total of nearly $4,700.
Of some 600 walkers at the Fort Worth event, the Maurers were the top fundraisers.
"They did a phenomenal job," Graf said.
Stephanie agreed, and attributed it all to Tonganoxie's ability to give.
"You know Tonganoxie's a great place and you realize that people will always take care of each other, but it's overwhelming," Stephanie said. "You realize how much people truly care about you.
"When you have a specific cause and you know someone personally, it makes it easier for people to give. And I just want everybody to know how much we appreciate it."
The walk was Oct. 13 -- exactly a year after Wyatt was admitted to Children's Mercy for kidney failure. It definitely was an amazing experience for Wyatt.
The TMS student, who is a Kansas University fan and loves baseball, could face needing a kidney transplant in the future.
At the walk, some participants wore green bandanas, which signified people who have undergone kidney transplants.
"It was important to me to see that people could go on after having a transplant and live a normal life," Wyatt said.
The Maurers wore T-shirts, designed by a friend from Seattle, that said "Walking for WYATT. The shirt's design includes footprints, with the base of the feet actually being shaped in the form of kidneys.
The family isn't finished with its fundraising efforts though.
Maurer said she spoke with local organizers about a benefit walk for Kansas and Missouri that's slated for fall 2008.
For Wyatt, his inaugural walk wouldn't have been possible without local support.
"I'd like to thank Tonganoxie for their help," Wyatt said.