Getting the word out one step at a time…

Published 6:48 pm Saturday, October 13, 2018

Anyone who has had to battle a disease of any kind realizes the importance of doing whatever is possible to educate those around them to first understand the disease itself and secondly to help in any way possible to find a cure to end the disease altogether.

Finding a cure is the reason that the 2018 Tri-Cities Kidney Walk scheduled for October 28 at Borden Park in Kingsport is crucial to an Elizabethton High School student who has a team organized and ready to participate in the walk.

Carlee Sullins is a 16-year-old junior who on Friday nights gives it her all as a varsity Cyclone cheerleader, but is no stranger to kidney disease as she has been diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome — a kidney disorder that causes the body to excrete too much protein in the urine.

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She has participated in the walk for two years and even has a team name for those who have come alongside her in support called The 17:20’s.

“The reason my team name is called The 17:20’s is my favorite Bible verse is Matthew 17:20 — And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief; for verily I say unto you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you (KJV),” said Sullins.

“The first person to share that verse with me was my dance teacher when I was first diagnosed with my disease.

“My nana also bought me a necklace with mustard seeds inside of it to keep them close to my heart,” continued Sullins. “She told me to keep the faith because God would take care of it all. And he has — I thank God every day that I am in remission. That verse is what I truly try to live my life by.”

Sullins has been working diligently to raise money for this year’s event as she has been selling T-shirts and has solicited local businesses for help with donations. She is also recruiting people to join her team to participate in the walk.

“My goal was to sell 50 T-shirts this year and I have sold 47,” Sullins said. “This is my first year selling T-shirts, so I am pretty proud of what I have accomplished.

“I am hoping to have around 100 people on my team this year at the walk itself. I have made flyers and of course I tell people by mouth. I have also asked my whole varsity cheer team to be a part of the team with me as well as the EHS Women’s Ensemble that I am a part of.”

Many times, teenagers are seen as unwilling to get involved, but for Sullins being involved should be an important part of any teenager’s life especially when something impacts them just as having the kidney disorder has touched her life.

“As a teenager, I love being involved in something that means so much to me,” commented Sullins. “This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart and affects me directly.

“If you get involved in these types of events at a younger age, then you have time to grow. I also want to educate teens about how important it is to get involved with things you are passionate about.”

While other diseases such as cancer and heart and lung disease often seize more limelight, Sullins believes that the public needs to be as educated about kidney disease as much as the other prominent diseases.

“Kidney diseases are very underrated,” said Sullins. “No one knows how many people are truly affected by kidney disease.

“Thirteen percent of Americans are affected by kidney disease. I want that to become more well known in our community.”

Seeing first hand how much it means to those who are on the forefront of the battle to find a cure for kidney disease and the educating of the public has been inspiring to Sullins and helped her to realize that there is a purpose for all things that happen in life.

“Seeing how much it affects the people that are higher in the kidney foundation and how they get so excited when they see young people that really care for kidney disease has been a blessing,” Sullins said. “I am so proud to be a part of the National Kidney Foundation.

“It has also helped me to realize that God has a purpose for everything, and he gave me this disease for a reason. This has truly helped my confidence level in being proud of the disease I have instead of being ashamed.”

Being a part of the walk in Kingsport has inspired Sullins who hopes to put on a Kidney Walk right here in Elizabethton.

She is hoping to find some businesses that would be willing to come on board with her in support of organizing an event in her community.

Also, there still is time to donate to this year’s walk by calling Sullins at 423-360-2520 or emailing her at

Sullins’ parents are Bobby and Jennifer Sullins of Elizabethton. Besides being active on the varsity cheer squad, she also participates in the EHS Women’s Ensemble. She was recently notified of being selected to the National Honor Society at EHS.