Skip to main content

Kidney March kicks off in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains


Marchers arrive at the Millarville Racetrack before the sun is up on a chilly early September morning that feels much later in the autumn.

More than 300 of them have all been impacted by kidney disease and are ready to spend the next three days walking 100 kilometres on paved roads in the foothills southwest of Calgary.

The 14th annual event is hosted by the Kidney Foundation of Canada Southern Alberta Branch with a goal to raise funds and awareness for kidney health and organ donation.

Joyce Van Deurzen is the executive director if the foundation and says the event that first took place in 2010 has raised more than $12,000,000 and the funds raised have improved lives.

"The money that these people raise goes to fund research," she said. "Because that's our best hope for improved treatments and of course cures and so that's a huge investment that we're able to make because of Kidney March and it also helps support prevention initiatives."

Each marcher has to raise a minimum of $2,200 and they come from all across Canada and as far away as New Zealand, England, Australia, USA, Egypt, and more. 

Michelle MacKinnon is in her 10th march and comes from Niagara Falls, Ontario. She says it's important for participants to share their stories with others over the three-day event.

"I have a son named David and in 2010, when David was 17 years old, he was diagnosed with renal failure and he was a crash start on dialysis and our entire world crashed around us," MacKinnon said. "But then we had hope, I was going to be his organ donor and unfortunately, his transplant was canceled twice and on the third date of his transplant, David died.

"He was 18."


Jim Hutton has been living with kidney disease for 14 years and has been part of the Kidney March since its beginnings. His family is also involved in the event. But while he is a huge supporter, Jim can't march, so instead he takes part in a patient program where he gets his kilometres in by biking while on dialysis, and then he uses a treadmill at home.

"This year I just completed 607 kilometers in three months," Jim said. "I feel great, I'm excited, I love being here, normally, I would be at dialysis right now but I changed so I can go in the afternoon so I can be here."

Jim is on dialysis three times a week and says the family has raised more than $50,000 for the Kidney Foundation by taking part in the march.

"For Jimmy, it's given him a purpose," said Jayne Hutton, Jim's wife. "He raises all my funds, he hooked a quilt and he makes tote bags and wine bags and that's how I get my $2,200."

Jayne has friends from Edmonton staying with Jim while she and her daughter Jenny go on the march.

"He's my inspiration," she says. "Every day is a struggle for him, he's on oxygen, he's on dialysis, he's tube fed at night, he is a miracle and he's what Kidney March is about."


Jenny Hutton has participated in many roles over the years at the three day event from volunteering to marching.

"Kidney March definitely isn't an easy event to do you know," she said. "But that's kind of the whole point, it's not supposed to be easy, because what patients are experiencing isn't easy either so if it's something that I can do for for my dad, and for my mom as well that's really important to me."

Cindi Hansford is volunteering this year by helping marchers with their sleeping arrangements. She knows it will be a long three days but says it's worth it. Hansford donated her right kidney to her dad Fred in 2017 and has seen first hand how funds from the Kidney Foundation help.

"As a donor I received financial assistance in terms of covering my costs when I was off work and covering the cost of getting to my medical appointments to get those things done and make sure I was tested and could match," said Hansford.

"I'm now also part of what's called the Kidney Connect program that connects all of us as peer support workers with anybody who wants to donate a kidney," he said, continuing. "Anybody who's going through donation, anybody who is has kidney disease, if you need somebody to talk to you, we have a great program, that's all through the Kidney Foundation and Kidney March so there's lots of wonderful things that come out of this."

Organizers say the Calgary Tower will be lit up red for Kidney March on Saturday, Sept 9th and the emotional closing ceremony is in the afternoon of Sunday September 10th at Winsport Canada Olympic Park’s Festival Tent. The Hutton family says they're making sure Jim will be there to walk across the finish line with them.

Learn more about the Kidney March here: Top Stories

Stay Connected