WeissCrax: Kidney Beanz

Members of the Santa Barbara Soccer Club walk in Sunday's inaugural Kidney Walk.

Santa Barbara’s inaugural Kidney Walk, sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation’s (NKF) new Tri-Counties Regional office, was held on Sunday, April 3rd and spotlighted important health awareness issues – and celebrated organ donation.

Under cool and cloudy skies, over 700 people walked the 2.2 mile course with great fanfare.

Team Never Back Down rose to 'The Kidney Occasion!'

From Fess Parker’s Double Tree Hotel to The Bird Refuge.

And back.

Included in the large swell of supporters were many local ‘rock stars’ – from the SB Chamber of Commerce, Domestic Violence Solutions, The Unity Shoppe, United Way, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, United Boys & Girls Clubs, etc – a true ‘community collaboration’!

Nearly $60,000 was raised, primarily for local education programs.

Wild applause all around!!

It all gave ‘hope to health’ – particularly to those still living on dialysis (and their families) and especially those on the Official National Organ Waiting List, some 87,000 people strong.

In an extremely rare interview, we caught up with Randy Weiss, who co-championed the Walk with Katherine Pinedo – she received his donated kidney in June 2009.

He agreed to an in-depth, ‘no-holds barred’, 60 Minutes-like exclusive interview to get ‘the scoop’ on their amazing journey. (Note: In the interest of almost-full journalistic disclosure, WeissCrax and Randy Weiss have known each other all their lives.)

So, do that stop-watch-ticking-noise-thing-in-your-head-thing here like on that real 60 Minutes television show and let’s get started…

WC: Is that loud clock-ticking noise bothering you?

RW: Nope. I’m good…

WC: Congrats on a successful Kidney Walk. How did you do it?

RW: Hey – don’t look at me! Juli Askew, my good friend who launched the local NKF regional office, deserves all the credit. What she accomplished was truly amazing …

WC: Dude, you gave up your kidney to someone you hardly knew – what’s up with that?

National Kidney Foundation Special Events Manager Juli Askew (front left) gets full support from Lee Foster, Amber Ortiz and Randy Weiss

RW: Actually, that decision was made about 10 years earlier with trying to donate bone marrow to Chris Messier — then a young boy with Leukemia.

WC: Hey — what ever happened to that Messier kid?

RW: He was the first Hugs for Cubs kid with the Santa Barbara Foresters. He eventually got the life-saving donation from someone else and, the best news — he is now a healthy SBCC student!

WC: OK, so….

RW: So, when my young Santa Barbara Bank & Trust colleague, Katherine, innocently and truthfully answered my “How’s it going?” casual question almost exactly three years ago with an “It would only be better if I had a kidney” – it really was a ‘no-brainer’ for me. It’s since been an amazing ride for us both.

WC: Howz that?

RW: With the transplant, we literally ‘cut the chains’ on her daily 12-hour dialysis – something that beats up your body badly over time. She’s enjoyed a new healthy, active lifestyle ever since … and the best news is she and her awesome husband Danny now have a beautiful baby girl – Belissia – born, coincidentally, last Thanksgiving. Life happens…

WC: And what has all this meant for you?

RW: It certainly changed me, as well, with a new focus on life — made me realize that “when you give, you get.” It’s wonderful to see Kat so healthy and happy. It all helps me to live now in each and every moment. To savor life and in giving to others, as best I can everyday.

WC: Explain, bro…

RW: Well, I first had to get my act together. Get in the best shape of my adult life to have the surgery. And eat right and stay in shape afterwards. It’s really been ‘a wake up call.’ Kat sez I saved her life, but the truth is – she really saved mine…

Baby Belissia is held by SBBT Senior Vice President Penny Sharrett, with mother Katherine, left, and Randy, right.

WC: What’s the secret?

RW: With organ donations it was learned that some donors experience a ‘downslide’ after donation. The focus being the transplant. With the wild encouragement of some amazing people, I already had another goal of competing in my first-ever Santa Barbara Sprint Triathlon, two months after transplant surgery.

WC: Keep going, Dude …

RW: Dawn Schroeder and my new friends at Momentum-4-Life (M4L) training club, welcomed me with open arms … essentially gave me a’ big group hug and kept me focused in a fun way. They never let me cash in on my “kidney chip.” I tried once. Bad mistake. Was out-trumped by Christine Feldman. She now calls me ‘Kidney Boy’ and I lovingly call her, ‘One Lung Christine.’ It’s all good stuff …

WC: So what about the SB Tri?

RW: Finished in under an hour – achieved my goal. Did it again last year, too.

WC: How do you now stay in shape?

RW: Jogging, Hoops. M4L workouts. And I can’t wait for summer – both Nite Moves and Reef and Run venues. I absolutely now love ocean swimming. I suck at it but just love it! My secret at these events is to try to ‘draft’ behind local legend, Joe Howell but he’s usually, at least, a half hour ahead of me.

WC: OK — we gotta wrap it up here. Any last thoughts on the Kidney Walk?

RW: Yes.

WC: OK, shoot….

RW: Well, the funny thing about The Kidney Walk is that it’s not really about kidneys at all…


RW: Well, yes, people do need to take care of themselves and their kidneys. But with organ donation — it’s more about giving hope and a truly lifesaving boost to others in leading a normal life, without them being hooked up to a machine to do what their kidneys should.

WC: What’s the bottom-line?

RW: If a knucklehead like me can give up an organ, others can too. It’s all really a matter of HEART. It only costs a kidney that you don’t really need, anyway. Make sense?

WC: Not really …

RW: The real secret is about organ donation is that it’s not hard to do. We hope others consider it long before ‘DMV’ shows up to collect their organs when they’re gone. If you wait that long, you’re missing out on lifetime benefits. Actually several lifetimes. Just ask my Kidney Sister, Kat – or better yet, Belissia …

WC: Anything else?

RW: Hey — love your sports column, Dude!! Presidio Sports rocks!!

Volunteer Barbara Petronis staffs one of the booths at Fess Parker' Double Tree Hotel

Randy Weiss of WeissCrax fame and Momentum-4-Life's Roberta Issaris