A pair of Newberg residents attempt to spread the word on their own plight and encourage people to register as organ donors

By now, many people in the community know who Kevin Gray is, even if they don’t know his name.

He’s the man that’s been standing alongside Highway 99W for the past couple of weeks holding the sign that reads “Living kidney donor needed.”

What people may not know is that after spending nine hours each night on dialysis, standing on the street takes a lot of energy, not to mention the disposition it requires to put oneself on display during such a personal GARY ALLEN - Pulling out all the stops - Kevin Gray took to the streets of Newberg last week in his search for a kidney donor and to better educate people on organ donation.

Considering his kidney failure turned his family’s world upside down twice before he even made the sign or donned any of his attention-grabbing attire, what truly catches the eye is Gray’s indomitable spirit, although he’d quickly tell you it’s the community’s support that has heartened him.

“People have stopped me at local stores and restaurants to say they’re praying for me, asking for my card or how they can help,” Gray said. “Just standing out in the street, people are honking and waving. It’s a great feeling of encouragement and it makes me want to keep moving forward that much more.” 

Gray, a father of three, was first rocked by the news that he had stage five kidney disease, the point at which the kidneys have lost nearly all of their function, after persistent headaches prompted a visit to the doctor last May.

The good news was that tests indicated that Gray’s wife, Dawn Marie, could be an excellent match, but late in the process, it was discovered she had kidney problems of her own that would preclude her from being a donor.

“It was devastating because we thought we were done, we thought we could go back to normal and though he’d have a life again,” Dawn Marie Gray said. “I thought we’d be able to do everything a normal family can do again. I thought he’d be able to pick up his daughter.”

For Kevin, it felt like everything came crashing down in a flash, especially because he had gotten his hopes up, despite the standard advice not to do so.

Facing the question of what to do next, Gray found himself determined to reach out, not only for himself, but to share what he had learned about the disease so that he would be remembered for helping to save lives, not just holding up a sign.

“Sometimes hopes get broken,” he said. “That just makes you fight even harder. You can’t just lie down and do nothing about it.”

When people stop to talk to him on the street, Gray gives them a card with his donor information and refers them to to sign up to be a donor. He also points them to the Facebook page of the local nonprofit group Are You My Type, which was founded by Michelle Saddoris, a Newberg woman also in need of a kidney transplant, and his wife, who serves as vice president. The organization is raising money to support both families, in part to offset potential transplant costs for them and any donors.

The group will hold its first fundraiser, a spaghetti dinner and silent auction, at 6:30 p.m. April 12 at Newberg Christian Church. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children and free for children under 2-years old. To purchase tickets or donate items for the auction, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On Friday Gray was joined not only by Saddoris, but about 20 members of the community, at his favorite spot near the corner of Highway 99W and Brutscher Street.

“Not every community is like that,” Dawn Marie Gray said. “This is a community that supports each other, loves each other and that’s what we’re about.”

Gray’s story was picked up by several national news organizations last week and took a sad and unwelcome turn when Christian Longo, a convicted murderer on Oregon’s death row, contacted Portland television station KGW to say that he and other inmates would be willing to be tested and donate an organ.

Inmates can legally donate organs, but are rarely allowed, and Longo helped found the nonprofit organization GAVE (Gifts of Anatomical Value from Everyone) to change that.

Gray said Monday that since then people on both sides of the inmate-organ debate have surfaced to harass him and his family through phone messages, email and even in person when he goes to the store.

Dawn Marie Gray added that Are You My Type has no affiliation with Longo and its sole concern is to help match those in need with living donors.

Feeling that Longo effectively highjacked his story with an issue that was unfairly thrust upon him and has resulted in a dangerous situation for his family, Gray said he will not comment further on the situation.

“That’s what this whole thing has turned into and that’s very unfortunate,” Gray said. “Everybody is now focused on this and they’re not even focused on signing up to be a donor.”

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