More than 500 people walked to support the fight against liver disease Sunday. The 4th annual Liver Life Walk, sponsored by the American Liver Foundation, brought the community together for a 5k at Harbor Point.
“It really supports the patients,” says Joann Thompson, executive director of the American Liver Foundation (CT Division). “It’s one thing that the patients and their families can take part in, really feel like they’re making a difference.”
“They bring their friends and families and their doctors come which is amazing to see all of them join them in a walk and it’s just a way for the patients to make a difference in their lives and to the other 30 million Americans who are living with lung disease,” says Kristin Link, event manager of the Liver Life Walk.
This year, the walk was in memory the event’s co-chair Brad Shwidock, who passed away from liver disease in November.
“He got involved with us trying to create awareness about liver disease and organ donation because it was so important to him so he actually helped found this liver life walk in Fairfield County,” says Link.
“The first year was an amazing year, the second year I had donated 60 percent of my liver to my husband so neither of us were here; I got discharged from the hospital that day. Last year he was here and this year the walk is in memory of him,” says Carol Shwidock, Brad Shwidock’s wife. “Brad celebrated life. He was a guy that didn’t want to be defined by a live disease. He wanted to live, and he lived.”
“We’re moving forward and that’s what he would have wanted and that’s certainly what all the rest of us are working toward,” says co-chair of the event, Michael Kirshbaum.
And Sunday’s participants did move forward; step by step, walking for those who have passed, those who survived, and those who are still fighting.
“We have a little two-year-old who just had a liver transplant from her mother. We have a 26-year-old who had a liver transplant and brain surgery within a couple weeks,” says Link.
“I’m a recipient of a liver and I would have died six years ago without one. It’s very important. There are many people out there to be saved,” says Kirshbaum. “We need to raise awareness, we need to get research done, we need to be able to cure some of these diseases, but most of all we need to help the people and be there for them.”
The walk raised a total of about $90,000. The funds will support education, research, and services for those affected by liver disease.