Walking for Dustin Cuzick, walking for those battling kidney disease

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - KKTV employees and hundreds of others walked Sunday in honor of the 37 million Americans currently living with kidney disease.

Walking in support of Dustin Cuzick, who lost his battle with end-stage kidney disease on July 11, 2019 at the age of 36. Cuzick spent the last years of his life on dialysis, waiting for a kidney transplant. Despite his health problems, he was the light of the newsroom. "There’s not quite as many laughs [now] because he always had us in stitches," anchor Katie Pelton said.

The annual Southern Colorado Kidney Walk kicked off at Memorial Park on a cloudless, 65-degree morning. The walk is one of the biggest fundraisers for the National Kidney Foundation, and the proceeds raised for Sunday's event will stay in southern Colorado.

11 News employees watched the disease devastate reporter Dustin Cuzick's body over the span of just a few years. He lost his battle with the disease over the summer.

"I know how hard it is for the people going through this financially, even with their insurance. Just the expensive medication, especially with Dustin with his diabetes and his insulin costs. It was $500-$800 a month in just prescriptions. The financial help that’s provided through the Kidney Foundation, it’s been awesome," Cuzick's dad Paul Warnecke said.

Warnecke and other members of Cuzick's family joined 11 News at the walk Sunday morning.

"Dustin would love seeing us all here together to do this in his honor. I think he would be a little embarrassed about the love and support that he’s being shown but he would be very proud," Warnecke said.

Cuzick's family and friends strive to honor his legacy by raising awareness and funds for those still fighting. One in 3 people are at risk of kidney disease and may not even know it, and many more likely know someone who is or was affected. The disease can strike at any age; Cuzick was in his early 30s when he began dialysis and only 36 when he passed away.

"It's been a rough couple of months in our newsroom," said 11 News anchor Katie Pelton, who worked closely with Cuzick on Call For Action stories. "And in the community too, because we lost someone who's so special. But I know that Dustin would want us to all come together for something like the National Kidney Foundation.

"It's a battle that Dustin had to fight, unfortunately. But it’s also something that we can help raise awareness for so that other people may not have to fight as much as he did.”

The National Kidney Foundation uses funds raised for research, public education, reducing organ transplanting waiting times -- Cuzick waited more than two years for a kidney -- and on improving the quality of life for patients. Read more about what the National Kidney Foundation does here.

Missed the walk, but wish to donate? Click here.