Barry K. Hargrove had been on dialysis for nearly six years when he decided to hang off the side of a hotel building, using only a harness and rope system, to descend 28 floors for the sake of raising awareness and– of course funds– for kidney health and disease research.

This Saturday, June 8, the pastor of East Baltimore’s Prince of Peace Baptist Church will be back at it again with a brand new kidney and renewed sense of purpose for the Over the Edge fundraiser sponsored for a fourth year by the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland (NKF-MD).

The place? Downtown Baltimore’s Marriot Waterfront hotel, located in the 700 block of Aliceanna Street.

“One of the things I discovered last year was that the view is phenomenal,” Hargrove told the AFRO, of his 2012 journey from the top of the building to the roof of the fifth-floor indoor swimming pool with a total of 28 floors in between.

“I allowed myself to dangle from the building for a little while and kind of blow in the wind and that was a feeling unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced before.”

Hargrove said he is so excited about the event that brought out his family members, friends, and congregation members last year.

“Since I had a successful kidney transplant in November, it took on a new level of urgency and a new level of importance-not just for me, but for the people who were donating on my behalf.”

Hargrove was first diagnosed with renal failure as a result of a genetic disorder in 1995.

“I was on dialysis for four years at that point and received my first kidney transplant in 1999,” he said. Hargrove did fine on that new kidney, donated by a congregation member, until 2006, when he again found himself in need of a transplant.

“It’s been an up and down struggle,” Hargrove told the AFRO, adding that his one goal while waiting on the list for a new kidney was to not let the disease define him or limit what he believed he could accomplish.

“I took the attitude that I was not going to stop my life and stop living as full of a life as I could while waiting on a phone call,” he said. And with that, he decided to go “Over the Edge”- literally.

Lydia Foxwell, the foundation’s director of field services for the Eastern Shore, is manager of the event and said that this year’s event will boast more than 90 participants who, according to the NKF-MD, raised $80,478 for the 2013 event.

Each participant was required to raise at least $1,000 in order to qualify for the rappel, which will begin at 9 a.m. on June 8.

“It’s meant to be something that appeals to adventure seekers and allows them to have fun for a really good cause,” Foxwell said. “We have a huge selection of participants from people who are absolutely scared of heights to people who do this all the time.”

Proceeds from the event go right back into initiatives to prevent and help stamp out kidney-related illnesses.

According to the Foundation, money from just 10 participants will fund a small research grant to be used locally, while other funds from as few as two people will help a Baltimore community properly evaluate their risk for kidney disease.

Kidney screenings and emergency assistance grants are also now made possible as a direct result of the monies raised, and four dialysis patients will receive aid in paying off a portion of their mortgage or rent.

Though human kidneys each only size up to the measurement of a fist, they can wreak havoc on the entire body if functioning improperly.

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that chronic kidney disease (CKD), or “a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as well as possible” lead to 16.3 deaths out of every 100,000 Americans. The condition can lead to poor bone health, chemical imbalances in the body, cardiovascular disease, and is the eighth leading cause of mortality in the U.S.

High sodium intake, high blood pressure, and diabetes are all major factors in kidney disease risk, according to information released by the National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP), a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiative.

“I’ve learned that you have to eat properly and remain as active as possible,” said Hargrove. “Unfortunately, in our community we don’t do that at the level that we should and lot of kidney disease is preventable.”

“You can watch your blood pressure, you can watch your weight, you can watch your diet, and if you’re a diabetic, you have to follow all of the rules to control your diabetes. Make sure you do all of the preventative measures that you can.”

As of June 3, Hargrove had not been assigned a time to rappel for kidney health. Participants will begin descending two-by-two at 9 a.m. and according to Foxwell, the event is expected to last until 6 p.m.


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer