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posted: 7/16/2012 7:27 PM

Kidney donor raising money to help child recipient, fund new initiative

Event will help pay Carpentersville's family's bills, too

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  • Nathan Saavedra

    Nathan Saavedra

  • Kalin Koychev

    Kalin Koychev


Although Kalin Koychev recently donated one of his kidneys to 3-year-old Nathan Saavedra of Carpentersville, he hasn't stopped giving.

The 33-year-old Wheeling man is planning a fundraiser scheduled for Sunday; half of its proceeds would help Nathan's family pay off the boy's medical bills, which now total $6,500.

"I'm just very touched that he wants to help us," said Tina Saavedra, Nathan's mother. "Not only did he save Nathan and give him a chance, (but) he's trying to help our whole family out to get us out of debt."

Last month, Koychev went under the knife to donate a kidney to Nathan, who suffers from prune-belly syndrome, an ailment that weakened his kidneys and required a transplant.

While he was at Northwestern Memorial Hospital awaiting surgery, Koychev noticed that some of the medical professionals didn't receive much gratitude from patients. So the other half of the proceeds from his fundraiser will go to support an initiative Koychev calls "Godspeed." It involves putting Biblical scriptures and sayings on balloons and distributing them to patients in hospitals and in nursing homes.

The goals are to cheer people up, build their faith in God and encourage the medical professionals tending to them.

"We have to be aware that with God, everything is possible," Koychev said. "If you do good, good will come back to you also."

Koychev hails from Bulgaria and has repeatedly said God is responsible for selecting him to give a kidney to Nathan.

At the fundraiser, Koychev's wife, Sevda, will auction off 20 of her paintings for charity, while Michelle and Pamela Bridges -- Nathan's aunt and cousin -- will be selling some of the crafts they make. Koychev is also working to secure donated appetizers.

The Saavedra family is expected to attend the event, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. July 22 at Lynfred Winery, 970 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling.

Since being released from Lurie Children's Hospital on July 3, Nathan is doing great and adjusting well to life at home. He continues to see his doctor twice a week.

"Everyone's real excited they've been nonstop asking him to play," his mother said. "He's just starting to get up and walk around again. He laughs all the time."

If you would like to help Koychev, send an email to If you would like to help the Saavedra family directly, you can make a donation to the Nathan Saavedra Kidney Fund at any BMO Harris Bank.

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