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Toy faces toughest match yet

Longtime tennis supporter suffering from kidney disease

Jack Burger

If you go

What: The Perfect Match: A benefit for Don Toy

Where: Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs

When: 2 to 4 p.m. March 28

Other: For more information call 879-8400. Donations also can be made through the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association or to the Don Toy Fund at Yampa Valley Bank.

Jack Burger, left, and Don Toy take a moment after a tennis match. The Steam­boat Tennis Association is putting on a benefit for Toy from 2 to 4 p.m. March 28 to help support Toy's battle with polycystic kidney disease.

On the surface, not much about Don Toy has changed.

He still has his sense of humor, his look and his love for the game of tennis — particularly spreading that love to young players.

But Toy is facing an uphill battle. He's suffer­ing from polycys­­tic kidney disease, which has left his organ func­­tioning at just 19 percent of normal. When it drops to 15 percent, Toy will have to begin dialysis.

Toy's influence on the community and tennis in particular haven't gone unnoticed.

He moved to Steamboat in 1974 and he's been coaching and teaching tennis for the past 20 years. He taught racquetball and tennis at the Steamboat Athletic Club early in his career. Then, along with Tennis Center Director Jim Swiggart, Toy was a driving force in bringing high school tennis to Steamboat.

The Steamboat Tennis As­­sociation is hosting The Perfect Match from 2 to 4 p.m. March 28 at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The event will serve as a fundraiser for Toy and a way to spread the word about polycystic kidney disease.

There will be tennis, food and games. Starting at 4 p.m. there also will be a presentation about polycystic kidney disease along with drinks and food. A minimum $25 donation is encouraged.

Information about the process of kidney transplants also will be available. Toy is currently on a list of more than 83,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant. In 2008, 6,000 people from the national transplant list got a new kidney. The quickest way for Toy to get a kidney is for someone to donate one specifically to him.

Information about becoming a potential donor will be available at the benefit. Toy needs a donor that has "A positive" or "O" blood types.

"I prefer to call it 'A-plus,'" Toy said.

Toy has suffered from the disease for the past seven years, though he's largely remained in good health. It's nonetheless been a struggle for him and his wife, Susie Clark.

But working with a University of Colorado medical team, the two have learned a lot about the disease.

"He's eligible to be on the transplant list," Clark said. "Through it we found he's really healthy and a great transplant candidate.

"Donors live longer or as long as regular people," she added.

Toy acknowledges that he hates the attention put on himself but is thankful for any support he receives.

He's even found a way to relate his struggle to that of another Colorado sports figure — Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, who is battling throat cancer.

"I look at it like George Karl and his throat cancer. I don't want sympathy, just support," Toy said. "Part of support is getting a test and considering" becoming a donor.