Kidney Disease Survivors Celebrate Inspiration and Encouragement

Winners of the 16th Annual Essay Contest Announced by Renal Support Network

GLENDALE, Calif., September 20, 2018 – Renal Support Network’s annual essay contest celebrates its 16th year of providing an opportunity for people who have kidney disease to share their story. The theme for this year: “Who inspires, encourages or educates you on how to live well with kidney disease?” energized many writers to enter the contest.  Entrants needed to meet only one qualification— to have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

This year’s first place winner, Gordon Labuhn, wrote about attitude and how it impacts others. He said “One’s attitude toward life is like a boomerang. What you give away is what you receive back.  I was astounded to learn I won first place! I want my peers to recognize that they should never give up and keep a positive attitude even if there are bumps in the road.”  

“We receive so many wonderful essays from people across the United States – it is always hard for the judges to choose. These essays show the resilience of my peers who are struggling with chronic kidney disease and it is a privilege for me to read them every year,” said Lori Hartwell, President and Founder of Renal Support Network.

Joy Araujo, who took second place with her essay about kidney campers describes how unexpected inspiration came from the kids whom she signed up to be a camp counselor for.  She said, “I’m newly transplanted – just a year ago. I appreciate this opportunity to share my journey because we all need to express ourselves and we all have a story to tell.”

Stacy Hoblitzell, who took third place with his essay about his mom. She donated a kidney to him and taught him valuable lesson he carries with him today. He said, “This essay contest has encouraged me to write more!”

The Essay Contest winners are:

  • 1st Place – A Boomerang,” by Gordon Labuhn
  • 2nd Place – Unexpected Inspiration,” by Joy Araujo
  • 3rd Place – The Tenacious Mother, the Fortunate Son, and the Blessed Kidney of Hope” by Stacy Hoblitzell

Every year, Lori Hartwell selects an essay as her President’s Pick.  She chose An Angel on Earth by Carlo Rodriguez.  She says, “This heart-felt story of an adolescent struggling with kidney disease and the fear about not finding love because of his illness hit home. I could relate to this story and feel happy he found love like I did. It pulled at my heartstrings.”

RSN is proud to announce the following Presidents pick and honorable mentions:

  • President’s Pick – An Angel on Earth” by Carlo Rodriguez
  • Honorable Mention – Before I Let Go” by Keith Mathews
  • Honorable Mention – Hakuna Matata” by Tamika Smallwood
  • Honorable Mention – Straight-Up Encouragement from ‘The Body Part’” by Abigail Clary
  • Honorable Mention – The Extraordinary Nurse that Inspired Me in Her Free Time” by Brad Chaffee

Cash awards were given for First Place ($500), Second Place ($300), Third Place ($100), President’s Pick and Honorable Mentions ($50 each). All participants and judges of the essay contest receive a complimentary 2019 Calendar titled “Creativity Cures the Soul” with artwork by Lori Hartwell and famous inspirational quotes.

Winning essays and more information about kidney disease are available at

RSN would like to thank the following corporate partners for their support of the 16th Annual Essay Contest.


Fresenius Medical Care

Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc.

National Renal Administrators Association

U.S. Renal Care


The Renal Support Network (RSN) is a nonprofit patient-run organization that provides nonmedical services to those affected by chronic kidney disease. RSN strives to help patients (dialysis, kidney transplant, and newly diagnosed patients) develop their personal coping skills, special talents, and employability by educating and empowering them to take control of the course and management of their disease. RSN was founded by Lori Hartwell who is a kidney disease survivor since 1968.