NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two men who didn’t know each other a year ago now share a lifelong bond, all thanks to a t-shirt.
CBS2’s Clark Fouraker was with the pair when they reunited Sunday morning after a kidney saved one of their lives.
Robert Leibowitz and Richie Sully walked together for the first time with an unassuming bond among those raising awareness for kidney disease.
Earlier this year, Robert needed a kidney and Richie gave him one.
“He’s the greatest guy in the world. He’s my hero. My family loves him,” Leibowitz said.
It all started last summer when Robert, who is from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, wore the same shirt every day on a nine-day family trip to Disney.
His simple plea for help and phone number were posted on social media and shared more than 90,000 times.
Richie, who lives states away in Indiana, saw it and made the call.
“I figured a guy that desperate to walk around Disney with a cellphone number on his shirt really wants to spend more time with his kids and not die,” Sully explained.
Sure, they texted and talked plenty, but Richie finally came to New York for the National Kidney Foundation’s fundraising walk.
“We’re just enjoying time together,” Leibowitz said.
Hundreds of people — kidney recipients, kidney donors, and even current patients going through dialysis — walked up and down the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the fundraiser.
“What’s really amazing is we’re just teaching people share your story. You don’t even have to make an ask. Just share your story. Somebody can come forward who you’d least likely expect who can give a kidney. It’s really saving lives,” Meg Gilmartin of the National Kidney Foundation said.
This pair couldn’t agree more. Leibowitz said he still has the t-shirt that started it all.
“We want to show people out there, it’s so easy to be a donor,” he said.
They hope their story will prove donation is worth it, too. Leibowitz said he feels younger than he’s felt in years.
Sully said he feels encouraged because of the kindness he was able to show someone else.
The National Kidney Foundation said at least 30 million people are at risk for kidney disease. Sunday’s walk raised more than $1 million for research and treatment.