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Bar crawl to raise funds for the National Foundation for Transplants in honor of Liam Budgell

  • The Walking Dead Zombie Bar Crawl is a benefit for the National Foundation for Transplants, in honor of Liam Budgell.

Bar crawl to raise funds for the National Foundation for Transplants in honor of Liam Budgell

12 Jul 2017

Wanted: 300 zombies to roam the streets of Savannah, drinking in bars and raising money for a good cause.

A Day of the Walking Dead Bar Crawl will be held July 15 in downtown Savannah to raise money for the National Foundation for Transplants. The money will be used to give patient Liam Budgell a new lease on life.

Event organizer Craig Arcos has known Budgell and his family for some time.

“He lost his first kidney at an early age, but he’s played baseball and had jobs,” Arcos says. “His whole life has been interrupted with the constant surgeries, and it will shorten his life without a kidney transplant.

“The dialysis wipes him out,” Arcos says. “He has to get up and go to work the next day, so the quality of life is not great compared to an average person in good health.”

From the start, Arcos wanted to help.

“Every once in a while, I decide to help other people,” he says. “I talk to friends and try to organize events. My wife and I own Bull Street Auctions and Escape Savannah.”

Budgell was born in 1994 with Reflex Kidney Disease as a result of a congenital anomaly. He has undergone 25 surgeries throughout his life, but now his condition has developed into end-stage renal disease.

His doctors say a kidney transplant is critical to Budgell’s survival, and while he waits, he has to undergo regular dialysis treatments. He is surrounded by family and friends, but the dialysis has taken a toll.

Budgell’s health is particularly precarious now, Arcos says.

“He’s down to 3 percent functionality with the only kidney he has,” Arcos says. “He has to go to dialysis and have blood work done, and with everything else he goes through, it makes it hard to keep a regular job.

“It does prevent him from living a completely normal life. You can do dialysis only so long, and then you enter a situation no one wants to think about.

“Several friends are being tested to see if they are a match for a transplant,” Arcos says. “Even a guy who is a paraplegic in Texas has gotten involved.”

The greatest need besides the transplant itself is the $30,000 that must be paid up front.

“That’s the money we’re trying to raise,” Arcos says. “Our goal is to raise $60,000, which will help give him a cushion for unforeseen expenses.

“With added expenses, the cost of the transplant will be almost $400,000,” he says. “Some of it is covered by Medicaid and insurance, but not all.”

Despite his problems, Budgell’s hope and optimism remain high, which is why his fundraising campaign slogan is “Ya gotta believe in Liam!”

While insurance will cover part of the $335,000 transplant, Budgell will need follow-up care and anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life. These medications are very expensive, but are just as critical to his survival as the transplant itself.

There also will be the cost of travel, food and lodging when Budgell actually has the transplant at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. He will have to temporarily relocate more than 200 miles from his home to be near the hospital during recovery.

The National Foundation for Transplants is the perfect organization to help transplant patients, Arcos says.

“They have been in existence for 30 years,” he says. “They’ve helped over 2,000 people under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) so the family doesn’t have to pay taxes.

“The money goes to the client’s account,” Arcos says. “I did a lot of research and found them. They seem to be the most comprehensive. With Go Fund Me, the IRS goes after you.

“This is not taxable and does not affect the family at all. And the money is put away just for the transplant.

“They’re caretakers, so 97 percent of the money raised goes to the client,” Arcos says. “Just 3 percent goes back to administration.”

Participating bars are The Bar Bar, Savannah Tap House, Moon River Brewing Co., PS Tavern, Boomy’s, the World of Beer, B&D Burgers and Stafford’s Public House. In addition to drink specials, there will be raffles, live music and a zombie costume contest.

Coming up with the theme of the bar crawl was easy, Arcos says.

“The popularity of ‘The Walking Dead,’ the Xbox games, the online games is very high,” he says. “A lot of older people follow this stuff, too.

“There are all kinds of conferences where people dress up. People like to role play.

“This gives them the opportunity to do something fun and help others at the same time,” Arcos says. “All bar crawls in Savannah have a theme.”

Arcos is planning a Harry Potter-themed bar crawl for the fall.

“We’re also planning a masquerade party,” he says. “Friends Liam’s age have gotten together with friends of mine to help plan in different ways.

“We had a list of ideas for a theme and that was the one picked,” Arcos says. “You have to come dressed in your best zombie attire with fake blood all over the place.”

Those who don’t want to participate in the bar crawl can still help by making a tax-deductible donation. Donations can be sent to: NFT Georgia Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Write “In honor of Liam Budgell” on the memo line.

When making an online donation, type in “Zombie Bar Crawl.” On the day of the event, registration can be completed only with cash.

“If you don’t want to come, you can still make a donation,” Arcos says. “But our goal is to get people in crazy attire roaming the bars downtown and frightening people.”

Registration will be held in the The Rail Pub’s patio.

“At 3 p.m., a deejay will be out there playing some music,” Arcos says. “At 4 p.m., we’ll start off the bar crawl.

“The bars are providing special drink prices and gift certificates and sponsorships for the event and tickets to give away as contest prizes.

“We’ve also received donations of dinners from Circa 1875, the Olympia Café, Coach’s Corner and some of the other restaurants,” he says. “The whole idea is to have fun and raise money for a good cause.”


What: A Day of the Walking Dead Zombie Bar Crawl

When: 3-11 p.m. July 15

Where: Register at The Rail Pub, 405 W. Congress St.

Cost: $15 donation to the National Foundation for Transplants