Kidney Transplant Patient Counsels Campers

A year ago Joy Araujo received her second kidney transplant. She says she feels stronger than ever and recently dedicated a week as a camp counselor at Kidney Camp, attended by youths 8-18 with kidney disease.

She wears a sash around her waist that reads “Miss Indiana International” but behind that strip of cloth, Joy Araujo is like all the other participants at Kidney Camp.

Araujo recently served as a counselor at the camp sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana. During the week at Camp Tecumseh near Brookston, Ind. she spoke to the 35 “kidney warriors” about “Dreaming Big.” She wore her sash to illustrate her message: “However I felt, I never stopped dreaming big.”

Founder of the non-profit organization, Donor Appreciation Network, that recognizes living kidney donors, Araujo was on dialysis 11 hours a day before receiving her second kidney transplant last year. All the while, she worked diligently to prepare for pageant competitions where she focused on conveying the message about the importance of living kidney donors.  

“You are all resilient. So, if you too, have a dream, you too can bounce back from any obstacle, despite any low that comes your way in life. Maybe you love music, writing or sports; maybe you dream of going to college – you all are resilient,” she told the campers.

Like the campers, Araujo was diagnosed with kidney disease at an early age. She was preparing to leave for the Miss U.S. International competition last year when she got the call that she was getting a new kidney. Dr. William Goggins at University Hospital performed her transplant surgery.  At camp, Araujo joined dozens of volunteers and counselors – many from the nephrology department at Riley Hospital for Children – who helped children with kidney disease be – well, just kids.

For five days Araujo joined the campers hanging out in their cabins, creating boats and racing in a regatta, zip lining and horseback riding.

“These children are super inspirational, as they fight kidney disease every day at such a young age and remain resilient, strong, and positive. Every time I come to Kidney Camp, I try to bottle up their energy and keep it with me for rainy days during my own fight. Kidney disease is hard, but with a healthy dose of positivity, one can still dream big,” said Araujo.

For her own dreams, Araujo, who has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, hopes to finish her degree in Biblical Studies at Anderson University. Next month she will compete in the Miss International pageant in Charleston, W.V. where she will continue promoting the Donor Appreciation Network.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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