‘Kidney for Kevin’ event to benefit transplant costs

‘Kidney for Kevin’ event to help with costs

By Greg Gulas



When Kevin Vanoverbeke was 11 years old and in fifth grade at North Road Elementary School, he was like his many classmates as they anxiously looked forward to their teenage years.

That was before he was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.

Now 40 and suffering from stage 5 chronic kidney disease, the former golf professional at Oak Tree Country Club in West Middlesex, Pa., has been on the Cleveland Clinic transplant list since Jan. 10, praying daily for word on a new kidney and pancreas.

Already a costly process for Vanoverbeke and his family, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by his many friends, relatives and colleagues in the golf community and Saturday, Pine Lakes Golf Course in Hubbard will host “Kidney for Kevin Golf Benefit,” with funds raised and donations received earmarked for Kevin and his family in order to help defray medical bills and other costs associated with his pending surgery.

“As big as the golf community is around here, it makes our inside family that much closer when there’s one of ours in need,” said Chris Carfangia, Pine Lakes golf professional, who also helped coordinate a similar event at Oak Tree that drew over 140 golfers. “I’ve known Kevin for nearly 20 years and we’ve always bounced ideas off one another. In this business, you need someone to bounce off your ideas and Kevin’s that guy for me, and vice versa.

“We are in the service industry, people who help people every single day, so we are used to providing. Kevin has done that all his life but now he needs some help. He’s too proud to ask for any assistance, so it’s time for us to step up and help him out. When he gets better, I guarantee you he won’t be able to wait to give back to everyone once again.”

A 1996 graduate of Howland High School, Vanoverbeke played on the Tigers’ golf team and has a hole-in-one to his credit. In 2011, he used a sand wedge on an ace at the Rock Golf Course in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“You are obviously aware that as a diabetic, something down the road like this could happen,” Vanoverbeke said. “I’m at stage 5, there is no stage 6 and along with my family, we are truly humbled by the outpouring of support that we have received.”

Kevin and his wife Kristen are parents to daughter Aubrey, 4, and twin sons Lucas and Dillon, 11/2.

He resigned his post at Oak Tree to move forward with testing and surgeries.

He spends 7 hours and 52 minutes each night, seven days a week or a third of each day on peritoneal dialysis.

“I do dialysis at home when I am in bed at night, but it’s still tough to get a good night’s sleep for a variety of reasons,” he said. “I have no choice, for without a new kidney, it’s dialysis the rest of my life.”

While Dr. Brian Stephani and the Cleveland Clinic handle his transplant, the Kidney Group of Youngstown handles his dialysis and he is a regular patient at Fresenius in Cornersburg.

“Dr. Andrea Shaer and Connie Bane have been absolutely fantastic as I go through this process,” he noted.

It took approximately 25 appointments over a two-day period at the Cleveland Clinic before he was finally approved for the donor list.

“Everyone from Dr. Stephani and his team, to cardiologist’s, to dieticians and even social workers, it was a process that covered all of the bases,” he said. “I waited about six weeks or so, they called to do a few more tests and that all went well. Being a diabetic for over 30 years, they wanted to make sure that my body could handle everything and that just got us one step closer to getting on the list.

“The process actually started last September, I incurred time since Jan. 10 and received the news that I became eligible on May 22, so it took nine months overall to get on the list. Once you are approved, it usually takes between one and two years to find a donor.”

Vanoverbeke’s brother, Nick, who was one of the first to be tested to see if he was a match, was in fact, a match. However, the Cleveland Clinic was uncomfortable using him as a donor.

“With diabetes in our family history and the fact that he has already had a bout with kidney stones, those were contributing factors,” Kevin said. “He was definitely disappointed, but I am just so appreciative of his willingness to want to help me out during my time of need.”

Until Vanoverbeke receives word they have a kidney that is a match and available for transplant, he remains on a high-protein diet which includes eggs, meat and Nepro shakes.

“I must stay away from potatoes, tomatoes and sodium at all costs,” he said.

In addition to the upcoming fundraiser at Pine Lakes, a Howland Alumni Band Night and a spaghetti dinner at the Village Banquet Center that drew more than 600 people have helped defray medical costs.

“I have insurance but cost out-of-pocket for the transplant is $6,000,” he said. “It is also going to cost $1,000 a month for anti-rejection drugs for the rest of my life so when I was contacted by Chris, it was beyond humbling.

“I’ve tried to be good to everyone and so many have rallied around me, of which I am most appreciative. Family, friends, the golfers of the valley, the support has been nothing short of amazing.”

A shotgun start is set for 9 a.m. Cost is $80 per player and includes 18-holes with cart, breakfast, lunch, dinner, beverages throughout the round and prizes.

For more information call Carfangia at 330-534-9026, or Nick Vanoverbeke, 330-533-9169.

Donations may be made to: paypal.me/kidney4kev.