Two Penticton women, Nancy Folkestad and Kellie Wesley, are on a mission.
The two share a special bond that led to their YouTube series Inspiring Women on a Mission.
Wesley gave her kidney to Folkestad’s husband, Terry, who was suffering from polycystic kidney disease in 2013. Nancy had put out a request to friends hoping to find a match for her husband and Wesley stepped forward.
“It changed my life,” Nancy Folkestad said. “Everything changes, work changes, your thinking about money, about retirement about life, it just changes everything. Kellie gave me a gift that my husband couldn’t even give me. She showed me what bravery is, what courage is, what selflessness is.”
(read more: Friend donates the gift of life)
“I don’t particularly like needles either,” Wesley laughed. “I didn’t realize until after I thought what the hell have I gotten myself into?”
After donating her kidney, Wesley was reading the Western News and discovered the B.C. Kidney Walk was taking place.
“I conned my youngest son and my dog to walk with me that day,” Wesley said.
In a matter of hours she raised around $400. The walk got the two involved in what they found to be a robust community of supporters.
“It just started this whole process of getting to know who these other people were,” Wesley said. “We kind of formed this little community … we call them our kidney peeps.”
They discovered in Penticton there are several people in town who are either donors, recipients or waiting for a transplant.
“Which was astounding to me in this small community. You think maybe there is going to be two or three, there’s a multitude of them, they started coming out of the woodwork,” Wesley said.
She had been a fundraising chair before on different committees and decided to put the hat back on and get back into the game.
The two work throughout the year including World Kidney Day in March, raising awareness around organ donations, and of course the B.C. Kidney Walk.
According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, Canada has one of the worst records for organ donation in the world.
“We have the least efficient system. So, when you find that out and you find out how many people are actually dying and how many people assume ‘Oh, well I have my driver’s license.’ They think they’ve done it and their wishes are known but don’t understand what it entails and that it’s a simple process,” Folkestad said. “You could save five, six, seven, 10 people’s lives.”
The overwhelming positivity of the successful transplant and the discovery of the generous Penticton community had the two wanting to share more.
“I couldn’t believe she had decided to do something like that for little old me,” Folkestad said. “So we decided to do something online ourselves.”
The two started a YouTube channel, conducting interviews on topics ranging from food, weight loss, depression and suicide to weddings and becoming a grandparent.
“We keep it positive sharing with other people the things that you’re going through,” Folkestad said.
They wanted to bring positivity to the often dreary online news feeds.
“We wanted to start sharing stories that were either helpful or brought joy to people’s lives,” Wesley said. “We wanted it to be inspirational and motivational and if we’re talking about a more difficult subject to let people know there’s help out there and you’re not alone.”
You can catch the two at this year’s B.C. Kidney Walk, starting with registration at 9 a.m. in Gyro Park on Sept. 25 and the walk beginning at 10 a.m. According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Penticton has already raised $9,292.47 with 137 donations for the walk, 37 per cent of the $25,000 goal.
For more information on the B.C. Kidney Walk visit www.kidneywalkbc.ca.
To check out Folkestad and Wesley online visit the Inspiring Women on a Mission channel on YouTube.