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Kidney transplant recipient pays it forward

March 12, 2014 12:00 am  •  Damian Rico The Times

GRIFFITH | Blake Loudenber is a game changer.

Just a year ago, he was struggling for his life.

Then, after waiting nearly eight years for a kidney donor, Blake’s family finally received the “miracle call” from the staff at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital.

“It was absolutely one of the best and scariest days of our lives,” said Kelly Ray, Blake’s aunt. “It changed the entire dynamic our our lives and gave us hope and inspiration but, at the same time, we were filled with fear and anxiety because of how sick Blake was.”

The 10-year-old transplant survivor celebrates the anniversary of his surgery on Friday.

In honor of that one-year mark, he wants to give.

The Loudenber family is collecting new boxes of crayons and coloring books along with other new and nontoxic art supplies to be donated to the Comer Children’s Hospital. The items will be collected throughout Northwest Indiana during March and delivered to the hospital prior to Easter.

“Blake knows the fight isn’t over and has good days and bad days,” Kelly Ray said. “He knows what it was like to go through all of that pain and knows what these children are dealing with every day. He understands how important the support of the nurses, doctors and community are in comforting them through all of it.”

The family has partnered with the Griffith Police and Fire departments, and community businesses to collect the coloring books and crayons.

“When Blake called and told us what he was doing, we wanted to be part of it immediately,” Griffith Police Officer Kevin Strbjak said. “Blake means so much to us and his inspiration is ongoing. After everything he’s been through, he’s still thinking about others.”

Last week, Blake met with Strbjak and Griffith Firefighter Joe Martin to discuss the initiative and provide them with some drop boxes for the drive.

Strbjak and Martin bonded with Blake. They have attended Blake’s fundraisers, ball games, school events and even made visits to his home and the hospital.

“He’s just a great kid,” Martin said. “He’s very special and to think about others when he isn’t necessarily out of the clear yet is amazing. We need more Blake Loudenbers in this world.”

Drop boxes are available at the Griffith Police and Fire Department, 115 N. Broad St., Griffith; Beiriger Elementary, 601 N. Lillian St., Griffith; Strack & Van Til, 9632 Cline Ave., Highland; Bridges’ Scoreboard, 121 N. Griffith Blvd., Griffith; CVS, 3835 45th St., Highland; NWI Fleet Maintenance, 8765 Louisiana St., Merrillville; Walgreens, 1225 E. Ridge Road, Griffith; Wheatfield Lanes, 50 W. Westgate Drive, Wheatfield; and Team Toyota, 400 Indianapolis Blvd., Schererville.

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