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Riding across Belize for kidney patients

BELIZE CITY, Wed. July 4, 2018– The Ride Across Belize is a community-supported annual initiative by the Social Security Board (SSB) to raise funds to support charitable causes and aid in the development of Belize. According to the SSB’s website, they started the initiative because, “medical practitioners linked to the Social Security Board decided that the institution needs to do more in emphasizing the importance of healthy living.”

The Ride Across Belize program, according to the website, has two main objectives: to “work as a team and raise needed funds to generate public awareness for worthy causes, and to promote healthy lifestyles in Belizean homes.”

This year marks the 14th year of the program, which began in 2004. The 100 riders who completed the first stage of the annual ride, which took place across the 84-mile stretch from Corozal Town to Belize City, rode into the Social Security compound at around midday today.

According to SSB General Manager of Corporate Customer Relation Services, Chandra Cansino, who is the organizer and a rider in the program, the SSB chose the recipient of the funds raised this year, by polling the staff, and the majority of them expressed concern for dialysis patients. They thought of how they could help persons who need dialysis treatment but cannot afford it, and they realized that the easiest way to get the funds to these persons would be through the Kidney Association.

The Kidney Association of Belize assists in the education of Belizeans on the prevention of kidney disease, and the treatment of kidney patients. President of the Kidney Association, Oscar Itch, told us that this is one of the few events they’ve had over the years since their establishment in 2003, and he believes it will go a long way in assisting kidney patients suffering from renal failure.

According to Cansino, the fundraising goal for this event is $50,000 minimum, and this is only the start of the fundraising efforts. Riders pay a $25 registration fee and that covers breakfast, lunch, unlimited hydration, etc. Corporate citizens also do their part and donate.

Fundraisers usually take place leading up to the ride, but this year those events will be combined, and will continue up until October. One of the fundraisers is a Goff’s Caye trip which is open to the public.

All the proceeds will be counted at the end of October, and the SSB will inform the public  how much was raised.

Itch said that $50,000 isn’t enough for the 130+ patients they have, because each dialysis session costs $200, and patients are required to do 3 sessions for the week, but the money raised will be a big help. He noted that many of these patients have low incomes and cannot afford the sessions, so in certain cases they can only do one dialysis session for the week. He said that doing only one weekly session could shorten their lifespan.

Itch said that at the association’s inception they had 500 patients, but many have passed away since then. He said many of the patients only go to a session when they are already in an advanced stage of renal failure, and the association has to try and save their lives with emergency dialysis.

He informed that although the lifespan of kidney patients has increased over the years, the association still wants to do its part to educate Belizeans more on how to prevent the disease. They want to do initial screenings for people at risk, such as those who are diabetic, hypertensive, or have a family history of kidney disease. The association wants to also encourage all persons to do screenings every year.

Itch wanted the public to know that they hold health fairs and do screening services throughout the year and that the services are provided for free. Over the years they have been in Orange Walk, San Pedro, and Cayo, so their efforts are not just concentrated in Belize City. He said their goal is to detect the disease at an earlier stage. He said when the disease is detected early patients can be assisted to improve the condition of their kidneys.

The second stage of the Ride Across Belize, from Belize City to Santa Elena Town, will take place on July 5. The third and fourth stages, from Santa Elena Town to Dangriga Town, and then to Punta Gorda Town, will take place on July 6 and 7 respectively.

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