'30 Rock' actor and his kidney donor to take part in Phoenix Kidney Walk

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PHOENIX – It’s one thing to donate an organ to a loved one, but it’s quite another to donate an organ to somebody you don’t even know.

Ryan Perkins of Gilbert did exactly that. The 23-year-old donated a kidney to Grizz Chapman, who stars on the NBC show “30 Rock.”

“Finding out that so many people needed a kidney transplant and couldn’t really live their lives because of the dialysis and the things that go along with kidney failure, it seemed like I could really change somebody’s life. I wanted to be able to help,” Perkins, 23, told 3TV’s Kaley O’Kelley Friday morning, one day before the first Phoenix Kidney Walk.

Perkins started as an anonymous donor, but became a direct donor when he learned about Chapman.

The actor, who plays Grizz Griswold, had been doing outreach, raising awareness about high blood pressure and kidney disease. While urging people to get their kidney function tested and encouraging people diagnosed with kidney disease, Chapman himself was undergoing dialysis three times a week.

“I really wanted to help him once I found he needed a kidney,” Perkins said.

Perkins, who went to New York for the transplant last summer, didn’t meet Chapman face to face until two days before the surgery. Perkins said the difference in Chapman since the transplant is incredible.

“You can just tell that he’s healthier,” he said.

According to Kate Sepe from the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona, 600,000 Arizonans are diagnosed with kidney disease each year.

“Ninety percent of the people who have chronic kidney disease don’t even know it,” Sepe explained.

The test to check your kidney function is a simple one that your general physician can perform, but most people don’t find out they’re in trouble until the damage has been done, Sepe said.

More than 1,300 Arizonans are awaiting kidney transplants right now.

Tips to keep your kidney healthy include monitoring both your blood pressure and blood glucose, controlling your weight, and avoiding overuse of painkillers. You also need to know if kidney disease runs in your family.

Both Perkins and Chapman will be taking part in Saturday’s Phoenix Kidney Walk at Chase Field.

Registration begins at 7 a.m., with the 5K walk beginning at 9 a.m.

There is no cost to participate although donations are encouraged.