NJ Sharing Network, a non-profit organization responsible for the recovery of organs and tissue for nearly 5,000 New Jerseyans awaiting life-saving transplants, awarded Mary DiNardo with the 2012 “Ray of Hope” award.

The honor is awarded to heroes who shine light on how organ and tissue donation saves lives and brings attention to the national waiting list of 110,000 people, all of whom are praying the right match is found.

DiNardo, recognized at the organization’s 25th anniversary dinner and auction on April 12, is the widow of Det. Marc Anthony DiNardo of the Jersey City Police Department, who was killed in July 2009.  He was one of five officers shot as they pursued two robbery suspects in a Reed Street apartment building. The detective left behind three young children, and many family and friends who remember him as a hero.

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DiNardo, a Jersey City native who now lives in Jefferson, made the decision to donate her husband’s organs and tissue. The lives of three New Jerseyans were saved by the detective’s heart and two kidneys, while countless others benefitted from the gift of tissue donation.

“Although Mary was experiencing a devastating tragedy, giving someone else the gift of life offered solace and hope,” said Joe Roth, president & CEO, NJ Sharing Network.

In the past couple of years, DiNardo has lent her support to the creation of the “Legacy of Heroes.” On the anniversary of her husband’s death in 2010, DiNardo joined with more than 500 police officers, firefighters, family, NJ Sharing Network representatives and others to announce the program, the first-of-its-kind in New Jersey in which first responders pledge to become organ donors, and to help educate the community about the importance of registering to become a donor.

“The `Ray of Hope’ award is an honor I honestly wish I didn’t have to receive. I’d rather my husband be here,” DiNardo said. “My husband wasn’t a registered organ donor; he just never got around to it. But we discussed it, and I know this is what he wanted.”

“I need something positive to come out of my husband’s death,” she added. “The first step was to donate his organs, which saved three lives. Now I am in search of an extension of that purpose to save more lives. That is what I can do in his memory.”

About the “Ray of Hope” Award

The award is named after Jason Kendall Ray, the team mascot for the University of North Carolina basketball team. He was in New Jersey for the NCAA tournament in 2007, when he was hit by a car in Fort Lee. His organs saved the lives of four individuals; many others benefitted from his tissue donation through NJ Sharing Network. A video was produced for ESPN, entitled “Ray of Hope,” capturing the powerful meeting between Jason’s parents and the New Jerseyans who received his organs. The “Ray of Hope” award is now given to other heroes who selflessly help others.

About NJ Sharing Network

NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit, federally designated organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for New Jersey residents in need of life-saving transplants. NJ Sharing Network is celebrating 25 years of saving lives through organ and tissue donation in 2012.  For information about donation and transplantation in NJ, contact us at 1-800-742-7365 or  info@sharenj.org.