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Friends to run marathon to help woman find kidney donor

Special Correspondent
Published: September 30, 2015
Members of Team Tampa PKD wear a wrist band with the words “Finish Strong,” a mantra for the runners.

To Team Tampa PKD, running the New York City Marathon is more than running a road race.

It is a race against time, too, to find a living kidney donor for Erika Bragan, who suffers from polycystic kidney disease, otherwise known at PKD. Her husband is the team’s leader.

The team is running the Nov. 1 marathon (26.2 miles) to raise money for the PKD Foundation, which seeks a cure for a hereditary and genetic disease that causes cysts to grow on the kidneys, eventually leading to kidney failure.

“We started training for a marathon; now it’s a sprint,” said Scott Bragan.

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The team consists of Bragan, 47, a financial planner; Brad Minus, 44, an IT product manager; Rich O’Dea, 43, an insurance investigator; Kevin O’Brien, 45, who is in sales; and Karen Dempsey, 45, a spine care consultant.

They have been friends in the running community for a number of years and have participated in other marathons, with Bragan, Minus and O’Dea having run the Chicago marathon together raising money for the PKD Foundation.

This is the first time for the team in the New York City Marathon. They have been in training several days a week since early summer with runs of 16 to 17 miles on weekends. They often run on Davis Islands.

The marathon allows designated charities to have some of the 55,000 slots, but runners still must pay the marathon entry fee. Then the charity has a set amount that is the minimum to raise to donate. For PKD Foundation, that is $3,000 per runner.

The marathon operates for individual runners on a lottery system and when O’Brien didn’t get in as an individual, he suggested entering the race as a team.

“I asked Scott, ‘Does PKD have slots? Can we do it as a team?’ ” O’Brien said.

Bragan agreed as he also was searching for a living donor for his wife, whose disease was advancing.

“They take your credit card right up front,” O’Brien said. “So if you don’t raise it, you get charged anyway.”

The team has held several fundraisers, including a pub crawl, and will have a golf tournament Friday. Members also are relying on donations from family and friends — and using social media — as they must pay for the hotel, airfare and other expenses, too. Their goal is $25,000.

Bragan’s first marathon on a PKD team was in 2008 in Chicago. In 2009 he started a team in Tampa, which did the Chicago Marathon and raised more than $100,000 for the PDK Foundation for education, awareness, research and patient advocacy.

“What makes this different from all the others, is that this time we are using our efforts as a platform to possibly find my wife, Erika, a kidney donor,” he said. “So as we reached out to others sharing our message, we started to educate about organ donation, kidney donation, and how we are looking for a kidney donor for one of our very own.”