BALTIMORE — Hip Hop artist Freeway, best known for his role as an artist on Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records label, will be the celebrity ambassador during the 15th anniversary of the Greater Baltimore Kidney Walk on Sunday, April 30, 2017.
The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) located at 1000 Hilltop Circle, Lot 22 in Catonsville, Maryland.
For Freeway, the walk is more than just a promotional appearance. After he was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2015, he partnered with the National Kidney Foundation as an ambassador and uses his voice and cultural influence to raise awareness of kidney disease.
“Kidney Walk is something that the National Kidney Foundation does in a lot of cities to raise awareness about kidney disease and to raise funds to help support people with kidney disease,” said Freeway, who will perform at the event, which will also feature the world premiere of his documentary about life since his diagnosis.
“I got involved when I was diagnosed with kidney failure,” said Freeway, the recipient of the 2016 Patient Advocate Award. “I’m thrilled to be working with the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland for the Greater Baltimore Kidney Walk, where we’re expecting 5,000 people, including kidney patients, friends and family members and others wanting to make an impact on a growing public health problem.”
Nearly 122,000 individuals are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants in the United States, according to figures provided by the National Kidney Foundation, which notes that those numbers were compiled as of January 2016.
The median wait time for an individual’s first kidney transplant is 3.6 years and can vary depending on health, compatibility and the availability of organs.
In 2014, approximately 17,107 kidney transplants took place in the country and of those, 11,570 were from deceased donors and 5,537 came from living donors, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
On average, more than 3,000 new patients are added to the waiting list each month while 13 individuals die each day awaiting a transplant.
“My responsibility is to spread awareness and get as many people as possible to support the Kidney Walk,” Freeway said. “If it’s showing up or donating money, we need all the support we can get and I’m very involved in the process of spreading awareness on social media and all the other outlets I have access to.”
Freeway made his first major appearance in 2000, on “1-900-Hustler,” a track on Jay-Z’s Dynasty Roc la Familia album, according to his biography on Allmusic.com.
His debut album was released in 2003 and titled, Philadelphia Freeway. Three years later, the follow up, Free at Last, was released with a cast that included Cool & Dre, Don Cannon, Dame Grease, and J.R. Rotem.
Despite his kidney failure diagnosis in 2015, Freeway went on to release the 2016 solo album, Free Will.
“Kidney disease definitely affected my career in the beginning and [it] took some time to adjust. The most difficult part of me being a recording artist with kidney disease is having to do dialysis three times a week, four hours a day,” he said. “So, if I’m on tour, I have to set up dialysis in every city that I go to. But I try to find a blessing in everything and the good part of it is the dialysis unit that I go to works with me, and sets dialysis up in every city I have to travel to. They are very cooperative with me.”
While he is still awaiting a new kidney, Freeway says it’s important to reach out and educate everyone on the disease, and participating in the Kidney Walk is just one part of that education.
“I feel as though it is vital for people to know you should keep up with your routine physicals and see the doctor at least once a year for a complete physical,” he said. “I was walking around with three of the leading risk factors for kidney disease and didn’t even know it.”
“I have diabetes which is one of the leading risk factors; I also have high blood pressure, which is one of the leading risk factors. The third risk factor is surprising, but just me being African-American is a risk factor. Knowing is half the battle,” he said.
For more information about the Kidney Walk, visit http://www.kidneymd.org/events/2017-kidney-walks/.