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Event to aid Jacket in need

Nearly four years ago Carl Lawson appeared to be in ideal physical shape.

The former Georgia Tech running back, a member of the Yellow Jackets' 1990 national championship football team, ate right. An experienced personal trainer, he worked out often and bulked up to 265 pounds (with just seven percent body fat) on his 5-foot-11 frame. His huge physique led him to body building competitions, which he juggled with working multiple jobs.

But his outside appearance fooled everyone.

He felt flu-like symptoms that he attributed to fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor gave him the shocking news that he was diagnosed with focal glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease that led to renal failure in 2003.

Since his diagnosis, the now 39-year-old goes to dialysis three times a week, four times a day. Despite the inconvenience, he still works as a personal trainer at Fitness Together in Alpharetta and still enjoys coaching his son Carl Jr.'s Mountain Park 12-year-old football team.

However, the health kidney problems are wearing him down. His weight is down to 203 pounds and co-workers can tell he's deteriorating. He's currently in the hospital with pneumonia.

The bottom line - he needs a kidney transplant to survive.

Fortunately some people are helping make that happen.

Apparently Lawson has touched a few lives over the years, and those folks have put together the Walk for Carl, a 5K run/walk in Suwanee on April 29. Trainer Jason Goggans (jasongoggans@fitness

together.com) is heading up the event, gathering sponsorships and race entries to raise $25,000, a total that goes directly to the National Foundation for Transplants.

Lawson needs that amount to ensure he can afford the anti-rejection medication when a donor kidney becomes available.

"Carl's an unbelievable guy," Goggans said. "This guy really touches a lot of people and deeply cares about his clients here. He's not there just to count reps."

A tough New York City product who grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, Lawson said he has been humbled by the outpouring of support. He hopes this transplant gives him a new lease on life, and he doesn't plan to waste it.

"I can't put it into words, it's overwhelming," Lawson said of the Walk for Carl. "You hear stories about how many good people there are and how many people care. When you're part of it, you don't really know how to thank them all....I know this much. I've always worked with kids and helped people. But the love I've been shown by people during this makes me want to do more."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.