ATLANTA – Mark Dodd, an alumnus of the illustrious Morehouse College, has transformed his pain into purpose.
Despite continuing physical disabilities, the political science graduate started the Not Alone Foundation in 2006, to provide financial assistance, educational and medical resources to those undergoing and waiting for a kidney transplant.
He says that when he was diagnosed with renal failure six years ago, he was shocked to discover prospective organ recipients, “including the poor and lower middle class had to raise $5,000 dollars just to get on the kidney transplant list.”
Thereafter, he felt compelled to use his “personal testimony” to support Georgia patients who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to get on the list because of their financial abilities.
Dodd, who is still waiting for an available donor, says unlike other “celebrity diseases” which have garnished media attention, chronic kidney failure is “is a silent disease” with relatively low levels of awareness.
Still, chronic kidney disease is indiscriminate of race, class and gender, and affects tens of thousands of people in the U.S. every year. Diabetes and high blood pressure, both prevalent among African-Americans, are the key risk factors for chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Kidney failure, or the slow loss of kidney functioning over time, “is a cruel, costly and untimely disease, where patients may require dialysis up to three-times-a-week,” says Peggy Freeman, who sits on the board of the Not Alone Foundation, “Others may travel hundreds of miles for treatment because they don’t have facilities nearby.”
Indeed, it is Dodd’s battle to overcome the disease since his diagnosis, when he was still a Morehouse undergraduate, that has given him the determination to spearhead the foundation’s second annual Diamond Awards. Proceeds from the award show are used to benefit kidney illness and transplant surgeries.Hosted by actress Terri J. Vaughn, the star-studded awards ceremony, held on Saturday, March 17th, took place at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Established in 2010, the awards honor individuals in the entertainment and business worlds who have made a significant impact. From donating their time, money and influence to philanthropic activities, to acting as a role model or pioneer for others in their fields.
This year’s honorees included: actress LisaRaye McCoy; Red Tails director, Anthony Hemingway; Chairman at Green Energy Corp, Dr. Thomas Mensah, and actress Jackée Harry, who, in an emotional speech, told the audience her mother died of kidney failure.
Speaking about the award, Dr Mensah told theGrio, “I am very excited. Most of the time I am recognized by scientific or engineering communities, but it’s a privilege to be honored by your own community.”
“We focus on diseases like cancer and/or heart disease, but my hope is that these awards bring greater awareness to kidney failure,” said recipient of Diamond Award for Corporate Excellence, Shan Cooper.
“This is a wonderful cause and I’m extremely honored to be part the event,” said model and reality television star, Cynthia Bailey, who presented one of the awards.
The evening featured performances by Avery Sunshine and Demetria McKinney, as well as appearances by actors Mel Jackson and Travis Winfrey, actress Charity Shea and actor Brad James.
“Even in our first year, the response and support we have received for both the Foundation and Diamond Awards from local and national celebrities and business people has been incredible,” says Dodd, CEO of the foundation.
Every year, more than 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with kidney failure, and more than 400,000 Americans suffer from end-stage renal disease (ESRD), according to the foundation. At this stage, the kidneys are no longer able to remove enough wastes and excess fluids from the body and patients need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
The goals of foundation are two-fold: to help adult end-stage renal disease patients become members of the official kidney transplant list, and to support the families of children and teens suffering from ESRD.
In addition to providing financial assistance for patients, the foundation sponsors research and public education that promotes the prevention of diseases that can lead to kidney failure.