New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
A first reaction in looking at a picture of three kids smiling at the camera comes out as “oooh”. It’s not only their beauty that elicits this response but the joyful unity of their clustered pose: the older girl has her hand on the shoulder of the younger girl beside her and her other hand on the shoulder of a boy, the youngest of the three. Identical grey t-shirts with green letters saying: “We don’t know how strong we are until being STRONG is the only Choice we have. Kidney Disease Awareness“ emphasize their solidarity.
The strength and unity—and love shown in the photograph between Natalia, a senior at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York City, Isabella (12), and Georgios Kyriakopoulos (9, 10 in July) are real and happening. Working with extraordinary determination to bring attention to those suffering from kidney diseases such as Childhood Nephrotic Syndrome, a condition that her brother, Georgios, endures, Natalia just held her first fundraiser for Nephcure Kidney International ®, and it was successful.
“The fundraiser took place at St. Francis of Assisi, in Astoria, NY where I graduated Valedictorian and where my 2 siblings attend. It took place on Wednesday, May 27, Nephrotic Syndrome Awareness Day to shed light on those suffering from kidney diseases. We raised $1,275.00! Now I’m working on a community bake sale and looking for other sponsors.”
NephCure Kidney International ® is the only organization committed exclusively to support research seeking the cause of the potentially debilitating kidney disease, Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), and Nephrotic Syndrome, to improve treatment and to find a cure.
Her little brother Georgios was first diagnosed at the age of 3, Natalia told the GN, “He was to start Preschool, but when he was diagnosed our parents made the decision to keep him home. Thank God he was in remission and started attending Prekindergarten at age 4.”
Sadly, at age 6, Georgios relapsed 3 times consecutively. “We were all devastated, but through our faith and prayers, he overcame, and currently he’s almost 4 years in remission. He’s tested every day,” said Natalia, “There are times we are worried he might relapse, because of escalating protein numbers but thankfully Georgios has overcome. It’s not easy and the stress it brings our family does take a toll. “
“Georgios is now a thriving 4th grader who plays basketball, baseball, flag football, and soccer with the Eleftheria Pancyprian Youth Soccer League. He also just won the Middle School Math Bee and will be going to the Regionals.”
Natalia has chosen to study pharmacy. Her main reason is her brother. “Not only am I proud of my Greek heritage, but I also want to bring Nephrotic Syndrome Awareness to light. I was 11 when my brother was diagnosed and I always knew that I wanted to do something for him and all those who suffer from this rare disease. As I watched him take the heavy doses of steroids which changed him, I knew in my heart that I wanted to help in any way I could. It’s because of my parents, especially my father, Theodore, who has guided me when I had the idea of wanting to raise funds and awareness of this terrible condition. He and my Pappou, Georgios, always instill in us the importance of helping others, that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, and that nothing is impossible.”
“My brother is the main reason why I chose to study Pharmacy,” said Natalia, who has been accepted in 12 colleges throughout the country, with many offering her merit scholarships. “After much discussion with my family, I will be attending the University of Buffalo, which is one of the best colleges for pharmacy, in the fall. With God’s grace, I will accomplish my goals in becoming a pharmacist researching for a cure for Nephrotic Syndrome. This is all attributable to my brother and all those who suffer from this terrible condition. It is my goal to find a cure.”
There is much to learn from Natalia Kyriacopoulos about love and purpose, and her fundraising efforts merit great support.