One out of nine adults in America has kidney disease - and most of them do not know it.
According the National Kidney Foundation, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes. As Thursday marked World Kidney Day, nearly 100 U.S. communities have planned a Kidney Walk to raise awareness of the disease and funds to educate the public and support those affected.
The 3rd Annual Fort Myers Kidney Walk kicks off Sunday at 10 a.m. at Lakes Regional Park.
"This is a national walk, so this is something that's done throughout the country," Carolina Ferrer, chairwoman of the local event, said. "We want to bring community awareness and education."
As of Thursday, six walks were scheduled in Florida for 2014.
"We always do our walk in March in honor of World Kidney Day," she said.
If you go:
What: 3rd Annual Fort Myers Kidney Walk
When: Sunday, March 16, at 10 a.m.
Where: Lakes Regional Park, 7330 Gladiolus Drive
Last year, an estimated 300 to 400 participants turned out for the Fort Myers event.
"This year, we're expecting between 500 to 700 people," Ferrer said.
People can register Sunday for the walk starting at 8:30 a.m.
Those who want to sign up in advance can do so by visiting: www.kidneywalk.org.
"It's a three-mile non-competitive walk," she said.
There is no registration fee, but participants can donate or raise donations. While some of the walkers will participate as individuals, others have formed teams with their family, friends or colleagues.
"They can bring their bikes," Ferrer said. "We have people in wheelchairs, strollers when they bring their kids - however they want to do this, they're able to."
Along with the walk, the event will feature live entertainment from the Hot Flashz dance team, a reggae artist and more. Kidney transplant recipients will be on hand to share their stories.
"There's tents set up, so people can walk around and pick up information," she said.
Prizes will be raffled away, including donated gift certificates, clothing, art work and such.
A children's area will offer families activities like face painting and arts and crafts.
"There's at least four to five games for the kids to partake in," Ferrer said.
"It's just a fun fun family day at the park," she said.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease kills more than 90,000 people in America every year - more than breast and prostate cancer combined. It can go undetected because it often has no symptoms, but early detection and treatment can slow or prevent its progression.
Proceeds raised from the Fort Myers Kidney Walk will remain in Southwest Florida.
"The money that is raised is dispersed through the five counties," Ferrer said.
Organizers were hoping to raise $50,000. As of Thursday, about $52,000 had been raised.
"We're extremely happy and excited," she said of already surpassing the goal. "We feel honored that the community has supported us for this great cause. We're just thankful and extremely excited."
Last year, the Fort Myers event raised about $40,000.
Also Sunday, an awards ceremony will be held for the top fundr-aisers in categories like top dialysis clinic, top walker and top clothing donor. People can bring donated clothing articles to the event.
"It's going to be based on weight," Ferrer said.
Prizes of $200 and $100 will be awarded in the clothing contest.
Organizers urged to the public to get involved.
"Just come out and support us - spread the word to other people," she said.
Food and drinks will be available.
Lakes Regional Park is at 7330 Gladiolus Drive in south Fort Myers.
For additional information about the 3rd Annual Fort Myers Kidney Walk, call Carolina Ferrer at (239) 303-1724 or visit the Website online at: www.kidney-walk.org.