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Comedy with a cause

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Kidney disease is not funny. However, the Pearce family has found a way to marry comedy with awareness about the disease that affects 26 million Americans. A large number of this population is Black.

“He was a comedian. He was definitely one of the funniest people in the family,” said Judy Pearce of her son, Steve Pearce, a kidney disease sufferer who helped birth the idea of a film festival to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation.

The summer before he died, Steve Pearce and his brother Brian Pearce, director of the festival and local filmmaker, decided to fuse their talents of comedy and film and began organizing the event Wet Your Pants Comedy Film Festival.

Steve Pearce suffered a heart attack and was waiting for his body to become healthy enough to receive his sister-in-law’s kidney, but due to complications died in 2008.

Steve never got to see the festival come to fruition, but Brian decided to pick up the torch and continue on in his brother’s honor.

In its second year, this year’s festival will be Nov. 13-14 at the Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple. Beginning at 10 a.m. on both days, filmgoers will see independent comedy film “blocks” consisting of feature length and short international and domestic films.

All of the proceeds from Wet Your Pants Comedy Film Fest will go to the National Kidney Foundation.

Many filmmakers were well on board due to the nature of the cause.

“One filmmaker submitted a film and in his entry form, wrote a note saying when he learned about the cause, it meant that much more to him to submit a film because his brother had also passed away from kidney disease,” said Brian.

Brian Pearce certainly wants to raise money for the cause, but most importantly bring more awareness about kidney disease, especially to Blacks.

“After Steve had his heart attack, he couldn’t drive so I’d pick him up. I met a lot of the people at the clinic and a lot of them were African-Americans,” said Judy, also a co-director of the festival.

In addition to removing waste and fluid from the body, the kidneys regulate water and chemicals in the blood; remove toxins in the body and release hormones that help regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells and promote strong bones.

Kidney disease, conditions that damage the kidneys, is primarily caused by diabetes and high blood pressure – diseases that disproportionately affect African-Americans three times more than whites.

“Some patients are told when their diabetes is diagnosed it’s impacting other organs, but I don’t think it sinks in for people. Some are not even told about kidney disease or they’re watching other organs like the heart,” said Margie Evans-Fort, CEO of National Kidney Foundation of Indiana. “Some don’t even know they have diabetes or hypertension.”

In addition to diabetes and hypertension, those who have a family history of kidney disease should also get screened for the disease.

What’s more troubling is the need for kidney donors. Blacks top kidney transplant lists, however Blacks are slow to donate their kidneys.

Evans-Fort says the best way to prevent kidney disease is to drink plenty of fluids, eat properly and exercise. Those who already have diabetes or hypertension should work to manage their disease.

“Don’t ignore it. We see too often when people come to get their blood pressure taken and it’s way too high they’ll say ‘I didn’t take my medicine because I felt OK.’ You can’t do that. You’ve got to keep it under control,” said Evans-Fort.

For more information or a film schedule, call 317-507-4207 or visit www.wetyourpantsfilmfest.org. To learn more about kidney disease, call (317) 722-5640 or visit www.kidneyindiana.org.

You can e-mail comments to Jessica Williams-Gibson at Jessica-recorder@indy.rr.com.

n What: Wet Your Pants Comedy Film Fest

n When: Nov. 13 and 14

n Where: Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St. (Broad Ripple)

n Time: begins at 10 a.m.

n Cost: $8 per block (Saturday has five blocks, Sunday has three); $25 for Saturday pass; $20 for Sunday pass; $40 weekend pass

n Film listing: www.wetyourpantsfilmfest.org

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