Cloquet woman going to Guatemala for One Kidney Climb Three Volcanoes Challenge

Cloquet woman preparing to climb three volcanoes for kidney donation awareness

Julie Samuelson is looking forward to hiking in Guatemala, to raise awareness about living kidney donation.

Julie Samuelson has been out hiking in the woods behind her Cloquet home lately. And she’s not alone. Her dogs come along. And she’s got her weighted backpack on.

It’s all part of training for the hike of a lifetime.

The week after Thanksgiving, she’s headed out to the Kidney Donor Athletes Three Volcanoes Challenge in Guatemala.

“I’m feeling excited, a little nervous,” she told us.

Samuelson and 17 others from across the country will be together on this adventure. They share one thing in common. They all have just one kidney each.

“Kidney Donor Athletes is an organization that’s been advocating for living donation, and showing what you can do,” Samuelson said.

She became a living donor after finding out a classmate from Denfeld needed a kidney.

She wasn’t a match for him. But through the kidney paired donation process, was able to match with someone else. That lead to a kidney for her classmate.

“My recipient is from Minnesota. His kidney came from Florida,” she shared.

That was in 2021, and she told us the recovery was fairly easy. It meant walks in the woods. “I just need to watch my hydration a bit more,” she told us.

The retired airman from the 148th Fighter Wing has been a runner her whole life. She found Kidney Donor Athletes, and signed up for the One Kidney Climb.

“I have no idea how they selected me, but I’m thankful I did get selected,” she said.

She’s hoping this encourages others to consider becoming a living donor.

“It’s fulfilling. I’ve been a blood donor my whole life. And it’s just the feeling to be able to give something and not expect anything in return.”

To see more about Julie: