BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Almost 20 years ago, 12-year-old Bridgewater resident Tim Flavin walked to a friend’s house to borrow hockey equipment – but he never returned home.

Flavin was hit by a car crossing the street at Finderne Avenue and died from his injuries.

From one family’s incredible loss came a gift when they donated his corneas and heart valves to give others a better life.

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And now, Flavin’s mother, Patricia, and the rest of the family participate in the annual 5K Celebration of Life, sponsored by the New Jersey Sharing Network, in New Providence, to advocate for the importance of organ donation.

Patricia Flavin, who said she has always listed herself as an organ donor, said donating her son’s organs wasn’t at the forefront of her mind on that day in 1999.

“But my husband brought it up to the doctors and nurses, we weren’t approached,” she said. “I was on board immediately, I thought it was a great idea.”

“Considering the situation we were in because it was a sudden tragic accident, it was one good thing that came out of a really bad situation,” she added.

In 2013, Flavin said, her friend invited her to run a 5K, which she did, and then she heard about the NJ Sharing Network and the 5K they hold every year.

“I saw they were sponsoring one the following weekend, so I ran by myself in 2013,” she said. 

And in 2014, Team Tim’s Rangers was born.

“We had friends and co-workers run, and the team has grown every year,” she said. “It is so heartwarming to have the love and support from family, friends and coworkers. Even one of Tim’s friends from middle school joins the team every year.”

The NJ Sharing Network, Flavin said, holds two events every year, one in Long Branch and one in New Providence. This year they were held May 20 and June 3.

“I run both,” she said. “They hold two events because of the amount of people who run.”

In addition to the walk and USATF certified race, participants take part in a day of music, dancing, food trucks, kids’ activities, sponsor giveaways and stories attesting to the power of donation.

The foundation through the NJ Sharing Network hopes to raise $1.25 million to increase the number of lives saved through research, family support, public awareness and education about organ and tissue donations and transplantation.

The event, Flavin said, is a celebration of those who have passed, as well as of the lives of those who received transplants.

“And it is about hoping and praying that those who need a transplant can get what they need,” she said. “It’s not a sad event, it’s celebrating life.”

Flavin said she gets to meet other donor families, recipient families, living donors, altruistic donors and others.

“The ultimate goal is to have people be aware that organ donation is possible, and to have them register at the national registry to save other people’s lives or to enhance lives,” she said.

Flavin said they donated her son’s corneas, which allowed two people to see, plus a heart valve to someone else to help them live.

Other kinds of donations, Flavin said, include tissue donations for burn victims, bone transplants and more.

Although she had always been listed as an organ donor, Flavin said she did not know about the Sharing Network before she got involved in the 5K.

“I probably wouldn’t have thought you could volunteer for such an organization,” she said. “We don’t need our organs once we’re gone, so if someone else can benefit, why not? What better gift is there?”

Flavin said her family looks forward to the event every year, and they make a party of it, under a big tent. This year, she said, a young man approached them and introduced himself as a classmate of Tim’s from 1999, and said he still remembers her son.

“His death wasn’t in vain, and some good has come out of it, regardless of the outcome for us,” she said. “He is remembered.”

Those looking to volunteer or participate in future 5K races can contact the NJ Sharing Network through the website at www.NJSharingNetwork.org/5K. People can also sign up on the national registry as a donor.

This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of The BReeze, out now!