The Northern Ireland Kidney Research Fund was founded in 1971 by the late Walter and Josie Kerr.
Walter Kerr, a dairy farmer in Waringstown Co. Down, married Josie, a former post-mistress, in 1959, and dedicated they their lives to funding research into kidney disease. Together they set up the Northern Ireland Kidney Research Fund after Josie suffered renal failure following childbirth.
The couple had three children over eight years in the 1970s, but their first baby lived only for a matter of hours. They had another two children but one also died at birth and the other survived just days due to consuming toxins that could not be flushed by Josie’s kidneys while pregnant.
After the third birth, Josie was rushed to Belfast City Hospital where she was not expected to survive kidney failure, but beat the odds by coming back from the brink of death.
Josie’s vision was to “join people of every class and creed with one aim – raise funds for research”. This would prevent suffering from kidney disease and save lives.
In 1971, in a bid to raise funds for the charity and awareness of the condition, Walter organised his first car rally through Waringstown – now known as the Waringstown Cavalcade which is still an annual fundraising event today.
Josie received an MBE in 1979 for her efforts in promoting kidney awareness, and over their lifetime they were instrumental in raising millions of pounds for vital research into kidney disease.
The charity has helped to transform lives through research and in support of organ donation. What an amazing legacy has been created by the Kerr’s, and more than fifty years on the charity goes from strength to strength.