The Tuesday afternoon rally brought students together to help 19-year-old Wheeler High grad Richard Bland, who is taking the semester off from KSU for health reasons. Bland said he needs a second kidney transplant because a virus he contracted after a 2006 transplant left his new kidney badly scarred and unable to work properly.
“To have 400-500 people come out here on the green and say ‘We really want to help you out,’ it just really hits home,” Bland said.
Joining Bland on stage were cast members of the former MTV show “The Buried Life,” sometimes called the “anti-Jersey Shore” because of its inspirational message, which features four friends who traveled the country helping people accomplish their dreams while trying to complete 100 tasks of their own that they want to do before they die.
“You guys have started a firestorm,” cast member Jonnie Penn said, looking out onto the assembled students on the Campus Green, many wearing “Save Richard” T-shirts. “This is super inspiring.”
The rally was an idea of Bland’s Delta Tau Delta fraternity brothers. Fraternity member Cody Dewrell, a sophomore from Smyrna, said he decided to contact ‘The Buried Life’ cast, which had an appearance scheduled for Tuesday evening at KSU, about coming to campus early to participate in a rally to try to help Bland find a donor. So he sent a message to the cast on the micro-blogging site Twitter, and at around 1 a.m., the Buried Life responded with “Kennesaw-we hear you.”
From there, the message spread, at one point becoming one of Twitter’s most popular topics of discussion worldwide. Dewrell said the fraternity has received responses from as far away as California and Russia.
“It’s been stressful, but totally worth it to try to save a life,” he said.
Those in attendance were encouraged to be tested to see if they are a match to donate a kidney to Bland and give money for medical bills. They were also encouraged to go to a Facebook page created for Bland at www.facebook.com/Save RichardMovement.
Bland, a sophomore criminal justice major, said that if a donor doesn’t volunteer, he could be on a waiting list for a year. On Thursday, he plans to start dialysis treatment, which requires patients to spend hours hooked up to a machine that removes waste from the blood, acting as kidneys.
“It’s a poor way to live,” he said. “It sucks the life out of you and makes you weak and tired.”
Bland said he was first diagnosed with kidney problems when he was 8. His kidneys had cysts on them that filtered out needed nutrition. That led to his mother, Kathi Bland, donating a kidney when Richard was 14.
Richard Bland underwent the transplant at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where he hopes to also have his second transplant.
His mother said that Richard fought back and made Wheeler’s baseball team, but that was cut short when he broke the tip of his thigh bone before his first game. He ended up spending much of his sophomore year in a wheelchair because he couldn’t put weight on the leg.
“Richard has been through so much,” said Kathi Bland, who owns a used store fixtures business with her husband, Donne. “He has a great spirit. He has always been positive.”
Even those who never met Richard Bland came to the event wearing shirts supporting him. Sarah Vanderslice, a junior from Ringgold in Catoosa County, and Chandler Day, a junior from Adel in Cook County, said they planned to get tested to see if they are a match to donate a kidney to Bland. Both are members of Alpha Omicron Pi.
“All the fraternities and sororities help each other out,” Day said. “We want to prove it’s not just about partying and social life, it’s about helping out.”