Four Chicago-area kidney donors in feature-length documentary

“Every organ donation story is different, and that’s reflected in our cast.”

Chicago residents Laurie Lee, Bethany and Hannah Goralski and Hammond, Indiana resident Helaynia Walker have been cast in Maitri River Productions’ documentary film CrowdSource for Life. The Dallas-based film and television production company has announced the casting of seventeen living kidney donors for a non-fiction narrative documentary. Lee and the Goralski sisters donated their kidneys to strangers at Northwestern Medicine’s Comprehensive Transplant Center (NMTAC). They made the decision to donate after their fathers received successful organ transplants at NMTAC within days of each other. The Goralski and Lee sisters met on the transplant floor of the hospital while their dads were doing post-op rounds. Walker donated his kidney to a stranger during a kidney exchange at Ascension St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

“We get incredible, unique content from non-directed kidney donors,” said Donald Griswold, director and executive producer of CrowdSource for Life. “Science regards them as the most extreme altruists in our society. Due to the rarity of their donations, living kidney donors like Laurie take us on a deep and unexpected dive into what giving really means. CrowdSource for Life is not a documentary about living kidney donation; it is about the human experiences that accompany the gift.

The film’s cast of living kidney donors will work with Chicago’s 2nd Story theater company and producers Maitri River Productions to expand their experiences with living kidney donation into monologues. The narrative monologues will be performed in front of a theater audience in Dallas, Texas, where the production will be recorded live for the feature film, CrowdSource for Life.

“Every organ donation story is different, and that’s reflected in our cast,” said Lee, who is also a producer at CrowdSource for Life. “We have seventeen completely different perspectives on the process, effects and experience of giving. There is something in this show for everyone.

Lee also emphasizes the importance of diversity within the cast. “There is an unfortunate racial disparity in the world of kidney transplantation and donation. Whites are four times more likely to receive a kidney transplant than blacks, despite the fairness assured once you’re on the kidney transplant list. CrowdSource for Life’s cast is both culturally and racially diverse, which industry experts believe will expand the conversation about living kidney donation in many communities.

CrowdSource for Life will stream directly to many streaming services. Ned Brooks, founder of the National Kidney Donation Organization, described CrowdSource for Life as “…an amazing opportunity to increase awareness of kidney disease and the benefits of living kidney donation.” Many kidney transplant and donation organizations joined in the effort to increase the film’s $300,000 production budget. Transplant Village, Organ Transplant Support, Kidney Donor Conversations and PKD Outreach Foundation all helped, along with private donors, raise over $190,000 for the production of the film in just a few months. Tax-deductible donations to CrowdSource for Life can be made at https://crowdsourceforlife.com.

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