The highest honor granted by the Sertoma Club is the Service to Mankind award, which is presented to a volunteer for selfless service for the betterment of his or her community.
This year, the Hillsboro Sertoma Club has chosen to honor two individuals who made both a selfless and life-saving donation to Hillsboro resident Kirn Wildhaber.
Both Nathan Grider and McKinsy Lietz will be honored at this year's Service to Mankind banquet on Thursday evening, April 16, at the Hillsboro Lions Club.
Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Hillsboro Lions Club. Tickets are $15 each and available from any Hillsboro Sertoma member and at The Journal-News office on Main Street.
In 2008, Wildhaber discovered that both of his kidneys were failing. He was put on dialysis, but the procedures were wearing and specialists at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis started looking for possible donors for a kidney to Wildhaber.
Grider, who is the brother-in-law to Wildhaber, wasn't sure he could be a match because he wasn't a relative, but he did have O+ blood.
He was shocked that he was the match, and then worried about giving up his "perfectly good kidney." Though painful for a few days recovering from the surgery, Grider said he has never regretted it.
"I can honestly say I have saved a life," he said. "I was able to give my sister her husband back, and gained two nieces and a nephew. "
Wildhaber and Grider were able to have some great times together in the outdoors and Grider stated "my kidneys were keeping both of us alive. It's an indescribable feeling."
However in 2017, eight years later, following a fishing trip he and Wildhaber took to Ontario, Wildhaber became ill again. After many tests, doctors discovered the donated kidney was failing due to a rare disease and Wildhaber went back on dialysis.
Grider became an advocate for helping his brother-in-law find a new kidney. The list for kidney transplants is very long with donated kidneys being in very short supply.
Wildhaber again endured many months of four-hour, three days a week dialysis at an outpatient center. The treatments left him exhausted and able to do only menial tasks. He could no longer work full time.
Grider's promotion of organ donations, including a letter to the editor published in The Journal-News in January 2019, explaining Kirn's plight and asking for someone to help save a life.
In the meantime, Wildhaber's son K.J. had started preschool at the Hillsboro Community Childhood Development Center, and as fate would have it his teacher was McKinsy Lietz.
She would be the answer to the families' prayers.
"I had only known the Wildhabers through the day care that I work at. They were such kind and involved parents and I enjoyed spending time with their children. When I found out that Kirn needed a transplant, I added him to the prayer requests at my church, little did I know I was the answer to that prayer all along," said Lietz.
"One morning while unpacking K.J.'s breakfast, Kirn's wife, Stephanie was briefly explaining that Kirn was an O positive blood type. Somehow a joke was made. I kind of laughed and lightheartedly said, 'Hey, that's my blood type. I could be a match, you never know.' I was just talking to make conversation, but God did not take it lightheartedly."
While the suggestion began as a jest, Lietz could not shake the feeling that she should be tested. The idea was constantly present in her mind and when she attended her church, Net Community Church in Staunton the following Sunday, she was taken aback to find her Pastor Derrick Taylor was delivering a sermon about saying yes to God's call.
After some reflection, Lietz spoke to the Wildhabers and filled out the paperwork to be tested. Unfortunately, Lietz did not make it any farther than filling out the paperwork as she was three months postpartum from delivering her youngest child Aven.
Regulations stipulate that individuals must be at least one year postpartum before testing may take place. Both parties felt that the story had stopped there.
However, what felt like a resounding "no" at the time was little more than a "not yet."
In January 2019, after more than a year and a half on the transplant list with no donor in sight, Wildhaber began to make long-term plans for life on dialysis. He opted to begin peritoneal dialysis, which he could do himself at his own home.
Around the time that Wildhaber began planning for long-term dialysis, Grider started a campaign trying to raise awareness about the need for living organ donors.
At the same time, Lietz was at the end of the one year postpartum rule for donors and again felt the call to be tested. After a lot of prayer and reflection, Lietz once again made a phone call to Barnes-Jewish Hospital asking to be tested as a possible donor match.
Lietz's results came back and she was a direct match to Wildhaber. While excited by this news, she still had to complete months of testing to determine that she was the best possible match before the transplant surgery was officially scheduled for Tuesday, June 18, 2019.
While many people, including the Wildhabers, were shocked by Lietz's selfless generosity, those closest to her are not. When asked, her husband, Kirby, who has known Lietz since they were children, laughingly said he always knew something like this would happen.
Her mother, Margaret DeLong, describes her as always being unbelievably kind and giving, stating that even as a little girl she had a remarkably strong faith and that no one who knows her well would be surprised that she would wholeheartedly do something so selfless.