Dan Haugen and Kari VanDerVeen

More than 200 Southwest High School students are raising money for Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) as part of the community-service-oriented Blast Day that takes place on Dec. 22.

That day, students will bowl for PKD research at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park to celebrate their fundraising efforts. PKD is a common but little known disease that causes kidneys to become inflamed and eventually stop functioning. A cyst that grows within the kidneys causes them to expand continually.

More than 600,000 Americans are affected by PKD yearly according to data from the PKD Foundation. PKD is the most common life-threatening genetic disease, and cases arise more frequently than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, Down syndrome and sickle cell anemia even when their numbers are combined, as cited by the PKD Foundation.

Park Tavern is donating 20 lanes and shoes to the students. Until then, students are collecting pledges with a goal of raising at least $25 per person. The most successful fundraiser will receive a prize.

Gary DeGrande, who belongs to the MN Chapter of the PKD Foundation and its board of trustees, is helping coordinate the event led by the Southwest Student Council. DeGrande, who suffers from PKD, is thriving, thanks to a kidney transplant from his wife.

He explained that his kidneys, which should be the size of a fist, are comparable to a football.

PKD causes a slow loss of energy that's eventually fatal, he said. &#8220The bottom line is that most people don't know about it. We want to raise public awareness,” he said. &#8220PKD research is beginning to make significant progress, and if we can keep up the pace, there is optimism that the next generation of people affected by PKD will have a true drug treatment and avoid the risks and trauma of dialysis and transplantation,” said DeGrande.

Ed Roche, a health teacher at Southwest and advisor for its student council said students were motivated to pitch in because, &#8220They respond to people in need. It's a way to create community and bring us all together,” he said.

At Southwest, there's a Blast Day in the winter and spring. Students have raised around $30,000 over the past couple years for various charities. The PKD fundraiser is just one of many fundraising efforts at the school culminating on Blast Day. It just goes to show that, &#8220Southwest has students with big hearts,” said Roche.

To learn more or to donate, contact Ed Roche at 360-5298 or visit www.pkdresearch.org.