SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School students held their inaugural meeting of the Donate Life Club on Wednesday, March 14. Minutes after the walk out in solidarity with Parkland school shooting victims, thirty students met in a classroom during lunch to hear from the NJ Sharing Network about organ donation.
Many of the students were classmates of Isak Anderson, a boy who passed away suddenly nearly three years ago. His mother Kylen attended the meeting. Choking back tears Kylen talked to the student about what organ donation meant to her family.
“I still miss him but the fact that he was able to give a gift that helped other people makes it a bit easier,” Anderson said.
Isak was honored in a floragraph as part of a float in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California on January 2, 2016. Dying unexpectedly from a heart condition called hypertropic cardiomyopahty or HCM, Isak's liver, kidneys and corneas were donated through the NJ Sharing Network.
Ryan Chilli is the chairman of the initiative at the high school. “My mom is very involved [in NJ Sharing Network]." Chilli said. “I felt like it was my duty to continue the work. Also, there is a lot of interest because of Isak.”
Brook Hartrum, Community Education Manager told the students four thousand people in New Jersey are on the transplant waiting list, waiting for an organ to be donated; nine of them live in Sparta.
“Imagine every person in the school of about 1200 students is on the list,” Hartrum said. “Understand that would not even be half of the people on the list.”
Hartrum told the students about the SaveLivesNJ campaign, about to launch in April, to coincide with National Donate Life month. She also debunked some of the myths surrounding organ donation including the incorrect idea that doctors and EMTs will not do everything possible to save a patient if they know you are a donor.
"In fact the opposite is true," Hartrum said. "You must be in a hospital on a ventilator in order to be considered as an organ donor."
She talked to the students about some ideas to raise awareness of organ donation; set up a table at lunch to distribute information, pens and bracelets, set up a bulletin board with the posters and information. Most of the resources are provided by NJ Sharing Network.
Students were told they could join Team Isak in the 5K Celebration of Life walk event scheduled in New Providence on June 3.
Additionally, the club anticipates working on the #SaveNJLives campaign to mark pizza boxes with the number of people in Sparta on the transplant list. Villa Capri and Anthony Franco in Sparta are participating in the campaign that will have information about organ donation on the pizza boxes.
“You have a voice,” Hartrum said. “People don’t want to talk about organ donation because it’s scary. People don’t want to talk about death. It needs to be a conversation about life.”
“You have the opportunity to make an impact,” Anderson said.
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