It was a busy Saturday for Nyjer Morgan.
The enthusiastic center fielder began his morning in the Silver Spring Thanksgiving parade, visited kidney transplant patients at the Dialysis Corp of America and Georgetown University Hospital, learned more about kidney donation and kidney disease from leading transplant surgeon Dr. Keith Melancon and spent his evening at the 29th annual Kidney Ball benefiting the National Kidney Foundation.
Morgan became interested in the Kidney Foundation when his three year old cousin, Samira, was diagnosed with a Wilms' tumor. She'll receive her final chemotherapy session this week.
"When the opportunity came for me to jump on board with something like this, it was an automatic yes," said Morgan, who is eager to give back to the African American community and spread awareness about kidney disease.
"I'm learning right now about kidneys. I did research on this [and many people] don't even realize that there is something wrong [with their kidneys]. With more people talking about it, hopefully we can help out the cause."
Dr. Melancon and Morgan talked for almost an hour about donation procedures and transplants including the innovative new transplant programs that allow doctors to mix and match kidneys between multiple donors and patients. The procedure was highlighted on ABC's Grey's Anatomy earlier this year.
Melancon described his creative and innovative programs as a way to combat the socioeconomic problems that affect minority patients, especially in a city with the highest prevalence of kidney disease in the nation. Morgan listened carefully and asked lots of questions.
"When we work with someone like Nyjer, we can really help raise awareness in the community," said Michele Anthony, Division Vice President of Communications for the National Kidney Foundation. "He's such a sparkplug for the team and has such a great personality and so much heart. What he can do to help raise awareness about kidney disease in our community is just tremendous."
Morgan donated autographed game-used memorabilia to the Kidney Ball's auction on Saturday evening. He also helped to raise funds for the cause by donating a "day with Nyjer" experience during the program's live auction.
Morgan will continue to meet with key donors and plans to make appearances on Capitol Hill to help support government funded research for transplant programs.
"I wanted to come in this year and be a leader because I am getting a little older. It's time for me to step up into a leadership role and doing something this, hopefully it helps to show that," Morgan continued.
He'll also continue to meet with patients to lift their spirits with his big laugh and authentic Tony Plush style. Next season, he plans to try to get them out to Nationals Park to enjoy a game.
To learn more about the Kidney Foundation, visit kidney.org.
To learn more about being an organ donor, visit organdonor.gov.