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Spotlight: Deborah Ikirt, Chair of the National Kidney Foundation’s Annual Kidney Ball

Debbie Ikirt

Deborah Ikirt, CEO of Information Innovators Inc., is proud to be chairing the 30th Annual Kidney Ball, being held Nov. 20 at the Hilton in Washington, D.C.

The event will feature a performance by singer Natalie Cole and is expected to be attended by more than 1,000 local business leaders, kidney patients and their families.

Ikirt shared with ExecutiveBiz her personal connection to the Kidney Ball, and how it will benefit the Washington, D.C., community:

GovConExecutive: Could you start by telling me how you came to be involved in the National Kidney Foundation?

Debbie Ikirt: Due to the life-changing experience of our son’s illness, a very rare kidney disease called A-Typical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (A-Typical HUS) and was followed by multi-system  complications, we became aware of the great work that the National Kidney Foundation has provided. We have committed our support in helping them in their mission. Our son, Mason, has made a miraculous recovery requiring minimal medication to aid in the filtration process of his kidneys.  We are so fortunate for Mason’s recovery, but unfortunately there are so many children and adults who are not so lucky.

The National Kidney Foundation has made tremendous strides in research, education and early detection that really do make a difference in each and every one of those lives affected by kidney disease.  The foundation funds more research on kidney disease than any other entity except for the federal government.  Thanks to the research of the National Kidney Foundation, Mason is here with us today.  I think of them every day when I give him his medication.

GovConExecutive: You’ve done more than just become involved with the National Kidney Foundation; you are chairing this Kidney Ball.  How did you decide to do that and what are your responsibilities?

Debbie Ikirt: A colleague and dear friend of mine, Carleton Jones, formerly with Indus Corp., has been on the Executive Committee Board for years, and after hearing Mason’s story he asked if I would be interested in joining a few years ago. The ball is a wonderful networking opportunity for businesses like ours and throughout the community, as well as a tremendous way of giving back to the community for a well needed and worthy cause.

Having had a personal experience in the realization that kidney disease can happen to anyone, of any age, at any time, I jumped at the opportunity to chair this year’s event and give back in any way I can. We have been given a priceless gift of Mason’s life and recovery. Not until we went through this illness did I realize the devastating effects kidney disease can have on your entire body.  There is so much everyone can do to prevent kidney disease and to aid those who suffer with it – education on the disease is vital. The research and treatments available continue to improve at a remarkable pace through the help of the National Kidney Foundation, which is positively impacting millions of lives.  We committed to giving back in any way that we can and encourage others to do the same as one never knows what tomorrow may hold.  The goal this year is to raise $1.3 million at the event.

Ikirt's children, Brooke and Mason. Mason is a kidney disease survivor. Photo: Shane Hinkle

GovConExecutive: Let’s talk a little bit about this year’s Kidney Ball. What is special about this year versus previous years?

Debbie Ikirt: This year, the Washington Hilton has completed a total renovation that includes a silent auction area that is nearly 30,000 square feet. In prior years, the area was approximately 5,000 sq. ft., so this year there will be plenty of room to move around and view the many exciting and new items on display. Additionally, there will be aerialists as entertainment in the silent auction area.  The featured entertainment in the main ballroom will be Natalie Cole along with her orchestra.  Natalie herself received a kidney transplant a little over a year ago, so it is a real honor to have her as the featured entertainment.

GovConExecutive: For those who are considering coming to the Ball, how can they see the proceeds from the ball being applied in the Washington D.C., area?

Debbie Ikirt: Proceeds from the Kidney Ball fund the National Kidney Foundation research, patient services, public and professional education and organ donation programs that help patients and families just like our family. Although Mason’s kidney disease was not preventable, so many others are in the Washington, D.C., area.

One example of a program funded is the KEEP program, which stands for Kidney Early Evaluation Program. It offers free screening for those at risk, anyone 18 years and older with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease.  It’s designed to raise awareness about kidney disease among high-risk individuals and provide free testing and educational information so that kidney disease and its complications can be prevented or delayed. This foundation funds more research on kidney disease than any other except for the federal government. That’s pretty amazing. Eighty five cents of every dollar raised goes to these programs, research and funds.

GovConExecutive: Is there anything else that you would want people to know about the Kidney Ball?

Debbie Ikirt: This year’s very special honoree will be John Devine, who is co-chairman, Mid-Atlantic Region of Genspring Family Offices.  Mr. Devine received a transplant last year with a kidney donated by his wife.  Additionally, Mason’s story will be features at the ball. The ball raises a great deal of kidney-disease awareness. My husband and I were told at one point in Mason’s acute phase of illness that he would be placed on a transplant list.  It was not until we attended our first Kidney Ball did we realize what being placed on a transplant list truly meant.  There were 86,000 people on the kidney transplant list last year, of that 15,000 kidney transplants were performed in the United States; that’s approximately 18 percent. The statistic is just daunting, but we all have the power to change it in so many ways.  The Kidney Ball corporate sponsorship has made a significant impact on our local area foundation, so a huge thank-you to every one of them for their generosity and efforts.  I hope your readers will be encouraged to attend this exciting event and aid in the fight against kidney disease.

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