NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The NJ Sharing Network is on target to reach their goal of raising $1,250,000 from the Long Branch and New Providence 8th annual Gift of Life 5K. Donor families, transplant recipients, living donors, those waiting for a transplant, volunteers, elected officials and hospital and corporate sponsors participated in the run and walk.
It was a photo finish between Zachary Falijean and Nicholas Martello for first and second place in 17:01.85 and 17:01.92, respectively. Tim Burns placed third in 17:18.72; Raymond Peterson placed fourth in 17:29.87. The first female to cross the finish line was Alexandra Niles in 17:52.00 [fifth overall]. Click here for complete list of results.
As the 10,000 participants lined up under the cloudy skies on Sunday, June 3, the sun peaked out for a brief moment during the New Jersey Youth Chorus' singing of the national anthem. NJ Sharing Network Foundation Executive Director Elisse Glennon told the crowd to believe this was a sign from the donors we have lost.
The theme of the race is "To Honor. To Remember.To Give Hope."
All participants have been touched in some way by the gift of organ and tissue donation from each of the team captains, volunteers and many sponsors. The race was led by members of the NJ Sharing Network cycling team that included New Jersey Sharing Foundation board member Jane Buckiewicz, who rides as the mother of an organ and tissue donor, and Cheryl Cohen, who rode in memory of her brother Howard, a heart recipient.
Each team embodies a story, and New Jersey Public Television broadcaster Steve Adubato interviewed several team leaders and gave a few shout-outs during his energized talk to the large crowd that gathered around the main stage after the race.
He introduced Drhuv, an 11 year old team captain of Hearts for Hope, who learned about Sharing Network through his mom, a heart transplant cardiologist for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Each year, "it is fascinating how lives are changed with organ donation and meeting the recipients and families of organ donors at the 5K runs was so inspiring. I made the decision to be an organ donor three years ago after my first 5K run and hope that one day everyone will embrace this ultimate gift of life," said Drhuv on his donation page.
Mary, the team captain for Cindy's Amazing Grace, participates in honor of her mother who died of a brain aneurysm at age 55. Mickey worked at 9/11 on the pile, said Abudato. "He is a recipient of a lung. Recipients, donors -- it's my honor to be a small part." Abudato will be featuring their stories in a series on his Public Television show.
Pete DeSarno, of New Providence, a certified Sharing Network race volunteer [along with his daughter Paige] and controller of NJ Sharing Network, is a recipient of a double cornea transplant and his story will be featured in TAPinto.net.
"It is my honor and my pleasure to represent the Public Television family," said Abudato. "We have worked for five years now, our team has worked with the NJ Sharing Network to bring awareness, to bring information, to let people know that you can give the gift of life to someone else. The people here at this 5K, the people that have given so much, who have family members passed on -- you make a difference everyday."
Amanda Abramo, NJ Sharing Network Foundation Programs manager said that 275 volunteers help to make the event so special with 100 Sharing Network staff members. "The Foundation and External Affairs team work around the clock, putting their heart and soul into the event to make it special for each and everyone of you."
Glannon said that in 2017 more people gave the gift of life through organ donation than ever before. "Thanks to all of you, our highly trained and effective clinical and lab staff who make sure that donation and transplant can happen 24 hours a day 7 days a week in this building and across New Jersey."
Glannon updated the crowd of the success of the spring pizza box and coffee sleeve campaign that focused on the "waiting list." 160 restaurants participated in profiling information on pizza boxes and coffee sleeves to highlight the number people waiting for a transplant. "There are 120,000 waiting nationally, 4,000 in New Jersey. 280 waiting for a transplant in Union County and there are four waiting for a transplant in New Providence." She said, "Our commitment to you is that we will not stop until everybody who needs a transplant gets one. To the families -- organ and tissue donors -- we will never forget your loved ones."
Doug Giordano, Vice President of Business Development at Pfizer, a New Providence resident, spoke of the common mission between Pfizer and NJ Sharing Network. "Our mission is to bring innovative therapies to patients that need them." He said that both organizations focus on people, patients and saving lives. "NJ Sharing Network, the clock is always ticking," said Giordano.
The clock is ticking because the wait list continues to grow, 20 people a day will die waiting for the life saving donation. "One organ donor and tissue donor can save up to 8 lives and restore function and health to 75 people," said Giordano. "These numbers underscore the importance of what the NJ Sharing Network is doing -- 365 days a year."
To learn more about New Jersey Sharing Network visit their website.