Celebrities get hooked up with causes and charities all the time, often with a personal connection to the issue. But few perhaps are as close as George Lopez is with the National Kidney Foundation. Four years ago Lopez underwent a kidney transplant, receiving a donor kidney from his wife, Ann. That came after years, he says, of ignoring his health and not undergoing certain medical tests.
Lopez doesn't want the same fate to befall others, so he's encouraging people to come out for a free kidney screening, part of several events for World Kidney Day. On Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Guy's North in Studio City, Lopez and a group of other celebs will be out to encourage people to get a quick checkup, consisting of a blood test for diabetes, blood pressure screening, and a body mass index assessment. Participants can also speak with a physician and, if a follow-up is warranted, referrals (some free) will be made. Anyone over 18 is welcome, including uninsured members of the Screen Actors Guild (for information and to make a reservation, call  747-5527).
"I let 38 years go by before I got healthy," Lopez said during an early morning phone call. "People see me being funny and energetic and I wouldn't be anyplace if I hadn't (paid attention) to some of the signs. You can't heal everybody, but it's important that people are aware of their health situation.... Sometimes people know they have a family history of diabetes, and they still don't want to know [about their own health]."
Other famous types scheduled to be at the event include Andy Garcia, Hilary Duff, Brooke Burns, Constance Marie, Louis Gossett Jr. and Kevin Sorbo. And yes, they'll be getting screened as well. Does Lopez think his celebrity status helps the cause? "I think it does," he said. "My wife and I run into a lot of people who have donated their kidneys and are more aware of kidney disease because of us."
Lopez says he considers his kidney surgery anniversary — coming up next month — like another birthday. "It's the second stage of my life."
-- Jeannine Stein
Photo: George Lopez and Constance Marie at last year's event. Credit: Wireimage