This 8-year-old is racing to fundraise for B.C. Children's Hospital

Jasper Podbrey, 8, has gathered a team for the Race for the Kids fun run to give back to the B.C. Children's Hospital.  (Shawn Foss/CBC - image credit)
Jasper Podbrey, 8, has gathered a team for the Race for the Kids fun run to give back to the B.C. Children's Hospital. (Shawn Foss/CBC - image credit)

Eight-year-old Jasper Podbrey does not joke around when it comes to racing — especially if it helps fundraise for the B.C. Children's Hospital.

The Queen Victoria Elementary School student has meticulously organised a team of friends to join him at the Race for the Kids fun run on June 11.

Jasper's father, Nicholas Podbrey, says the family looks forward to participating in the event and giving back to the hospital that supported them during a challenging time.

Three years ago, at the age of five, Jasper was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder.

"We went through a really trying moment with Jasper … [but the hospital] took care of us," said Nicholas.

"They couldn't have been more helpful and especially going through that during COVID … and you don't know what's going on."

Jasper, his family, and his friends will be running on Sunday at Riley Park Community Centre. Jasper hopes they'll beat his 2021 fundraising goal of $1,300 and raise $2,000 for the hospital this year.

As of June 9, Jasper's team has raised over $2,117.

Race for the Kids is an annual 2K and 5K run to raise money for the B.C. Children's Hospital.

Shawn Foss/CBC
Shawn Foss/CBC

'A small gesture'

Nicholas vividly remembers the panic and confusion when Jasper first started experiencing health issues.

In a week, Jasper lost a lot of weight that he had gained due to fluid intake — a result of the kidney problem that had also left the child "very puffy," in his own words.

"On the first day in the Children's Hospital, we had no idea what it was," said Jasper, adding nephrotic syndrome is a condition that doesn't filter protein out of urine.

"Your kidney is [like] a sponge that takes the protein and separates it from the pee.

"[But if] there's some holes in the sponge … I have to reduce how much salt I can have and also gluten."

If left untreated, nephrotic syndrome can lead to malnutrition, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and infection.

Now, three years later, Nicholas says Jasper is as healthy as ever, with hopes that the condition may pass with time.

"We can eat mostly what we want and certainly act like a healthy kid," said Nicholas.

"We can't ever repay [Children's Hospital]. But this [fundraiser] is a small gesture and we're really humbled and grateful to do it."

Tips for race day

Jasper first participated in the fun run in 2021, but was forced to compete without friends due to pandemic restrictions.

This year, he planned three months in advance to prepare his team for the big day.

With race day coming up, the team trains every recess around their school's gravel field.

"I always try to go around this field over here about 40 times," said Jasper.

Team member George Sanger adds it's important to maintain proper running form, with a straight back and arms bent at 90 degrees.

Jasper, now a two-year veteran of the fun run, recommends having gum on hand to keep energy levels up and to "keep on running, but at a slower pace" once runners get tired.