By Sarah Kuper
“Birmingham is a very philanthropic town. We are givers.”
That’s according to ARC Realty Chairman Tommy Brigham, this year’s Kidney Walk honorary chair.
Brigham has been a fixture in the Birmingham real estate market for decades, and he said he has seen the corporate community unite over common causes.
“I think we understand as a community that we all have to support each other for whatever reason. The Birmingham business culture, generally speaking, understands the model of giving. It has seeped into the fabric of our DNA,” he said.
Brigham cites a culture of reciprocity as he helps raise funds for the Kidney Walk.
“I guess when you are old and have been around a long time and people have asked you to support things – they know it is time to reciprocate,” he said.
Although Brigham is this year’s honorary chair, it wasn’t until a few years ago that he knew about the Alabama Kidney Foundation.
When Brigham’s grandson, Leo, was born with kidney disease, Brigham quickly felt the need to use all the foundation’s resources.
“You know, the foundation was out of sight out of mind until we got exposed because of Leo’s diagnosis. But now we are part of the survival family and we know it is important to be an advocate,” Brigham said.
Leo is doing well now, but his first year of life was full of hospital stays, feeding tubes and fervent prayers from his parents for a kidney transplant. Fortunately, once he gained enough weight, he was able to receive his mother’s kidney and he has been doing well since.
Brigham is one of the foundation’s largest fundraisers. For the 2017 walk, he already has raised more than $38,000, partly due to a matching campaign plus a surprise donation from his ARC Realty family.
“I had no idea. It was completely out of the blue and so touching,” Brigham said.
Being able to share his family’s personal journey with kidney related disease has helped him raise money, as well, he said.
Proceeds from the fundraiser go toward the Alabama Kidney Foundation’s financial assistance program. The initiative helps kidney patients in need of assistance with bills, prescriptions and transportation to dialysis.
“After you look into what they are doing and the impact they are having, it is very impressive. This is a chance to tell the story of those with kidney disease more effectively and raise awareness and funding for the estimated 400,000 people in Alabama suffering from it,” he said.
Brigham said he is thankful for the support of all those who may not have a personal connection with kidney disease but have donated anyway.
He is hopeful the value of philanthropy will be passed down to the next generation.
“We are benefactors of the people who came before us. It is really important that we model that for future generations,” Brigham said.
The Kidney Walk is April 29 at Samford University’s track and soccer stadium.
Registration for the race begins at 8:30 a.m. with the race beginning at 9:30 a.m. In addition to the walk, there will be games and food for all ages.
For more information and to donate or register a team, visit birminghamkidneywalk.org.