EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - What is the ultimate gift of life?  A new car? Your dream vacation? Whatever you make think it is, are you sure it is the ultimate gift that you could recieve?

Sunday, May 19th was the ninth annual New Jersey Sharing Network 5K. For those of you who have not heard of the event, it is “a celebration of life." This year, over five thousand individuals ran at Long Branch Beach to raise money for organ donation. Most participants are either living organ donors, recipients of organ donation, and loved ones of organ donors. This year, my mom Jen Harmon helped to gather EB Residents to join a friend of hers in celebrating Team Luke. Organ donation not only saves and enhances the lives of the recipients, it often brings joy to the loved ones of an organ donor who are able to meet the recipients. At the event, families are able to meet and engage with their loved ones organ recipients.

For team “Charlie's Angels”, Charlie's daughter explained that the event was a way for her to “relieve the memories of [her] dad”." After Charlie unexpectedly passed away last year, his family brought over 50 people to the 5k and raised over one thousand dollars for the Sharing Network. Another team, “Share Your Spare” promotes donating one of your kidneys because “you were born with the gift to enhance someone's life”. EB resident Erin Racine donated her kidney just a few months ago, and also participated in the 5K.

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Just this event alone raised over a million dollars for new research and the facilitation of more organ donations. ONE organ donor can save EIGHT lives and enhance the lives of seventy-five others through tissue donation. Transplantable tissue includes corneas, bone, ligaments and tendons, skin, and heart valves. Along with fundraising, the event fosters a loving, engaged community and encourages those who are not organ donors, to consider the impact they could have through organ donation.

Here in Middlesex county, almost 400 people (397 as of May 19th!) are awaiting a life-saving transplant, and almost 115,000 people nationwide. Every TEN minutes, another person is put on the transplant list. However, the good news is that over 2.5 million NJ residents are registered as organ and tissue donors, a number that has grown 38% in the last five years, alone.

The next time you are renewing your license, consider becoming an organ donor to fulfil the ultimate gift of life. Joseph Roth, President of NJSN believes that organ donation is the most “righteous thing to do”. Organ donation truly does saves lives.