TOWNSEND -- The first step on one woman's journey toward hope was taken last weekend, as Brenda Campbell held the first fundraiser in Brenda's Journey of Hope, a pasta dinner at the Townsend VFW, on Saturday .July 20.
Campbell was born with only one kidney, and found out at a doctor's appointment earlier this year that her kidney is dangerously low-functioning. Both dialysis treatments and, eventually, a kidney transplant, are necessary.
"I decided from talking with friends that things are going to be very expensive while I'm waiting for a transplant," Campbell said. "A bunch of people kept telling me to have a fundraiser, get a fund started," she said.
"It's hard because I'm always the one who helps everyone, so for me to ask for help, is difficult," she said.
Saturday's fundraiser brought in more than $1,700 to put toward Campbell's dialysis treatments and, eventual, kidney transplant.
But more than that, Campbell said, it brought in a slew of friends and family members who told Campbell that when she begins looking for an organ donor, they'd like to be tested to see if they are eligible.
"It's been very heartwarming. Words can't express it. These people are willing to literally give me life. You don't realize the impact you make on people until something like this comes up," Campbell said.
Campbell, who now lives in Greenville, N.H., grew up in Townsend. She said there was no doubt that that was where she wanted to host the fundraiser.
"It's home. It's old-world style. You know all your neighbors. I always felt comfortable there," she said.
That sense of community showed its colors Saturday, when more than 150 people came to support Campbell. Most found out about the event through Facebook and word of mouth, Campbell said.
She even had a visit from two former eighth-grade classmates from Hawthorne Brook Middle School, who came from Florida and North Carolina to attend the fundraiser.
C&M Pizza in Leominster donated the food for the event, and Country Dave and Jovian Wind, both of Townsend, provided the music free of charge. Attendees paid $10 per person to attend the dinner, and could also buy raffle tickets for $10 each. Many donated in addition to that.
Campbell said she plans to hold other fundraisers, although none have been planned yet. She hopes to raise a total of $25,000 to cover her medical expenses.
She said she is in the process of setting up a donation account so that people can donate to her treatment at any time.
Once the account is set up, it will be linked on the Brenda's Journey for Hope Facebook page.
In the meantime, she said she plans to begin her dialysis treatments in the coming weeks.
Campbell said the reception to her first fundraiser was far greater than she had expected.
"I did not expect that many people. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day," she said.
Follow Chelsea Feinstein at Twitter.com/CEFeinstein.