For Fran Lynam, recognition as a volunteer for the National Kidney Foundation presents an opportunity to raise awareness about a major health issue and the importance of organ donation.
Because of his work on behalf of the foundation, the 58-year-old Phoenixville resident has been named this year’s Bobby Rydell Volunteer Honoree. Lynam will be honored at the 30th Annual Kidney Ball, to be held at 7 p.m. on March 8, at Vie, 600 N. Broad St., in Philadelphia.
The National Kidney Foundation “is the leading organization … in the United States, dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease,” explained Mary Elizabeth Sullivan, development manager with the organization. The volunteer honor was named after the teen idol of the 1950s and ‘60s, a South Philadelphia native who has undergone a double organ transplant and been a foundation supporter, Sullivan said.
Lynam and his family have helped with the foundation’s fundraising walk in Chester County and golf tournament in Huntingdon Valley, Montgomery County, she explained.
Sullivan said that, besides being “a real pleasure to work with,” Lynam has “just got an amazing story.”
Now a teacher and basketball coach at St. Patrick School in Malvern, Lynam originally hailed from southwest Philadelphia, but moved to Havertown when he was a year old. He went to Lehigh University on a basketball scholarship, majoring in English.
However, when he was 16, Lynam was diagnosed with a condition in which his immune system started attacking his kidneys, and he started undergoing dialysis while a sophomore at Lehigh. Consequently, Lynam played basketball for the school for only a year.
“When I got out of college,” he said, “I couldn’t have a normal job. […] My life certainly wasn’t going the way I had planned it.”
After a stint as a racquetball club manager, Lynam started his own home improvement business and eventually became a union carpenter. But after shattering both elbows in an accident, he changed course and earned his certification to teach from Immaculata University.
Meanwhile, 11 years of dialysis caused “a lot of wear and tear on the body,” Lynam said. “My bones were compromised to the point where, if I got a got a big, severe chest cold, I remember breaking ribs coughing.”
Lynam received two kidneys from a 2-year-old girl in 1986, and he said it “changed my life.”
His first contact with the National Kidney Foundation was in the late 1980s, when Lynam’s brother, then head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, was its spokesman.
Lynam said he has always promoted awareness of the importance of organ donation and expressed gratitude for his transplant.
Wishing to be more “involved in a more hands-on fashion” with the foundation, he has organized a fundraising basketball tournament at St. Patrick’s this year and has enlisted students and their family members to take part in the Kidney Walk.
Lynam credited his wife, Rochelle, for encouraging him to become active with the National Kidney Foundation.
With about 26 million Americans suffering from kidney disease, “raising awareness, I think, is a very, very important ingredient” of the foundation’s work, he said.
As for receiving the volunteer honor, Lynam added, “I think it’s a great opportunity to tell my story and to honor the people who really need to be honored,” including medical professionals, his family members and friends, and the mother of his kidney donor.
“A lot of kindness has been extended to me, and you don’t forget that kind of stuff,” said Lynam.
For more information about the foundation and the Annual Kidney Ball, visit nkfdv.org.