Roberto (Robert) DeJesus Perez was my beloved son and my hero.  He was the youngest of three, and his two older sisters, Danishia and Sheila loved him dearly.  He graduated from North Bergen High School, Class of 1997.  He was the captain of their soccer team, a sport that he loved.  After graduation, Robert attended William Paterson University, located in Wayne, NJ.  His goal was to graduate from college and work for the United Nations so he could help people from Latin countries.

On November 25, 1997, at the age of 18, Roberto lost his life to a brain aneurysm. Immediately following his death he became an organ donor.  In doing so, he saved the lives of five people:  a 63 year-old man received his heart, a 40 year-old man received his kidney and pancreas, a 51 year-old man received his lungs, a 46 year-old man received his liver and a 30 year-old man received his other kidney.

The decision to donate his organs was made at the hospital by my husband, Carlos, who helped me understand that this was the right thing to do.  We also received love and support from NJ Sharing Network, the non-profit organization that recovers donated organs and tissues and educates the public about donation. Today I find great comfort in knowing that Robert’s spirit lives on through the numerous lives he saved.

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NJ Sharing Network helped us at the time of Robert’s death and afterwards.  They helped my family make a life changing decision. Since that time, I have been helping Latino families do the same, by informing the community and having them realize that lives can be saved through organ donation.  This is a way for me to give back the kind of help and support that NJ Sharing Network has given me.

I have been a volunteer for NJ Sharing Network for the past 14 years.  In Robert’s memory we have given a scholarship to a soccer player from North Bergen High School for the past 13 years; we participate in walk-a-thons every year with “ROB’S TEAM, collecting funds for organ and tissue awareness; I attend many health fairs and provide information to the community on organ and tissue awareness. Knowing that my son’s spirit is still helping others gives me great joy.

I tell my story so often in hopes of saving lives through organ and tissue donation and to let other families know they are not alone in their time of tragedy.  Roberto was an angel put on this earth for a short period of time, but the impact he created on people who knew him and the lives he saved is eternal.  The bonds I have created with the people from NJ Sharing Network, the recipients of Robert’s organs, family members who have lost someone dear to them and people in need of organs gives me back a piece of my heart that I lost when I lost my son, Roberto.

Maria Perez, a donor mother, graciously wrote this about her son and hero, Roberto DeJesus Perez. Maria knows first-hand how saving others through the gift of life—helps keep the memory of their loved one alive. In his honor, the Perez family will be participating in a Floragrah Portrait Decorating Event, December 10, 2011 at noon at NJ Sharing Network in New Providence, NJ.  This event is being held in preparation of the Donate Life Float at the Tournament of Roses Parade, which is honoring 72 people who in death gave life to others through the donation of organs, eyes, and tissue. Maria Perez is bilingual and available for interviews by calling Alyssa D’Addio at NJ Sharing Network, 908-516-5432. To register as a donor, visit your local MVC or www.sharenj.org.