Tour DaVita a life-changing experience for Carmel Valley resident


Three-day bicycle ride spanning 240 miles in Washington benefits The Kidney Trust

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Carmel Valley’s Joon Lee recently rode in the Tour DaVita, a 240-mile, three-day bicycle ride through Washington state. The bike ride aimed to raise awareness about chronic kidney disease and generate funds for The Kidney Trust, an organization that benefits the 31 million American adults with kidney disease and the 500,000 Americans with kidney failure that require dialysis or a transplant.

About 400 participants rode through Washington state, from Tacoma to Shelton. Each participant had to raise a minimum of $750 in donations and in the end the tour brought in nearly $750,000 for The Kidney Trust.

This was the fourth annual Tour DaVita and the first time a dialysis patient rode in the tour. The patient dialyzed for four hours on the second day and then got on his bike and rode nearly 70 miles.

The ride had a big impact on Lee—one he said was life changing. Three days on a bike with his thoughts made him think about how he spends his time. He said he often gets caught up in work and now he wants to spend more valuable time with his family.

“I’m going to enjoy the journey a lot more,” said Lee. “I want to be a better husband, friend and father.”

Lee works as the regional operations director for DaVita, the largest independent provider of kidney dialysis services in the country. There are 1,600 centers nationwide, eight locally in San Diego. Lee was joined on the trek by San Diego teammates Dr. Mark Shapiro, a nephrologist and medical director for two DaVita locations in Escondido and San Marcos, and Jim Gintz, group administrator.

While Shapiro and Gintz had been somewhat regular riders before they started training, Lee had not ridden a bike since he was a “little kid” riding a BMX bike.

Along the three-day ride, the riders were accompanied by a moving village of trailers and tents.

“We had typical Washington state weather,” said Shapiro, noting there was a little rain on the first day and that it “absolutely poured” on the second day. “Every rider had to go through the grueling decision of whether they wanted to start the day riding in the rain versus spend the day in a coffee shop.”

He said as ridiculous as it sounded, most opted to take off in the downpour.

“Riding in the rain was somewhat exhilarating at first but after two or three hours it was physically and mentally difficult. You were cold and wet and still had miles to go,” Shapiro said.

On day two, Gintz said he hit the road at 8 a.m. and didn’t finish until 7 p.m. He was battling not only the elements but also the urge to call it quits and ride a wagon back to camp.

“I was on my own for a number of hours and it gives you lots of time to think,” Gintz said. “ It was through a lot of self discovery and introspection that I determined ‘I’m going to finish this thing.’”

After the finish line, although they were tired, sore and wet, the group made the commitment to each other to tackle the ride again next year.

Shapiro said DaVita has evolved from a facility that provides dialysis treatment to taking a stronger stance in promoting overall health for people with chronic kidney disease at all stages.

He said conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are the major triggers for kidney disease. With early detection, kidney disease can be slowed with treatment.

“Get periodically screened for kidney disease because it can sneak up on people silently,” Shapiro said.

Of the 30 million adult Americans who have chronic kidney disease, about 90 percent don’t know it.

To find out more about DaVita, visit