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The Kidney Kare 5K Run/Walk took place on March 15, 2014. The UNC Kidney Center recently highlighed the stories of four participants who participated in the event.

Jenifer Odom is a mother who lost her daughter, Sami, to kidney disease in 2012. Sami was 2 years old. Jenifer and her husband Dean have been fundraising and participating in the Kidney Kare Run/Walk in honor and in memory of Sami.

Team Sami includes friends, loved ones, nurses and doctors who cared for Sami. Jenifer says she hopes to raise awareness about kidney disease in children through their efforts.

When did you get connected with the UNC Kidney Center?

We first met the doctors at the Kidney Center before Sami was born. She was born with end stage kidney disease and was placed on peritoneal dialysis when she was five days old. Sami was the happiest girl- offering a smile to anyone and everyone near her. Her happiness was so contagious.

She was in need of a kidney transplant, but children have to weigh at least 10kg to get a kidney. As she approached that size, we began testing. I was a match! She was slated to get one of my kidneys!

She developed some breathing issues that landed her in the hospital. After many hospitalizations, her little body couldn’t fight any more. She earned her angel wings at the young age of 2 years, five months old.

Tell me about Team Sami. How did the team get started, and who are your supporters?

We began participating in the Kidney Kare 5K in 2011, when Sami was 11 months old. We have participated every year in honor and now in memory of our sweet girl and other kidney angels who have touched our lives and our hearts.

We have so many supporters! Our friends and family have supported the race every year. We have friends who have come from near and far to participate. Dean’s employer, Crowder Construction Company, has been a huge supporter as well. They encourage their employees to participate by donating and/or racing. This year, they are even raffling an iPad to raise money!

Sami Odom
Sami Odom at 2 years, 2 months

Why do you enjoy supporting the Kidney Kare Run/Walk?

I feel like it is one way we can give back to the team of nurses and doctors who meant so much to us and Sami through her journey. The Kidney Center staff was like family to us. We also want to help spread awareness of kidney disease.

We know so many families of children with kidney disease. Many people don’t think about children being on dialysis or needing transplants. If we can help raise awareness of pediatric kidney disease, then we feel like we have made a difference.

Will you run or walk? And have you been training?
I will be walking (with Sami’s baby sister, Laurel). Dean will be running. He has been training for this year’s event.

How are your fundraising efforts going?

Our fundraising efforts are going well. We are two-thirds of our way to our goal. We enjoy fundraising each year for this event. We know that every single dollar raised makes a difference.

What are you looking forward to on race day?

I look forward to walking for Sami. We also enjoy seeing so many of our friends come out to support this cause. It is always nice to see the friendly faces of some of the doctors and nurses who cared for Sami. (Some are even part of Team Sami!)