IHILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Inspired by the memory of Grover "Chip" Lazar, Team Kidney Beans will not let social distancing, or other COVID-19 restrictions get in their way of celebrating his life on Sunday by participating in the 10th annual NJ Sharing Network Virtual 5K.

Lazar, who had lived in Hillsborough, suffered from Lupus, and was a two-time kidney transplant recipient  He received his first living kidney donor transplant and after 10 years, it failed.  His daughter and 5K Team Captain Jenny became his second living donor on Nov. 6, 2013.

Before his illness took its toll, he had participated in an earlier NJ Sharing Network 5K

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He passed away on Sept. 17, 2015.

As they have since, Team Kidney Beans planned to walk in this year's 5K fund raiser, but the event, which was to have been held in Long Branch was shut down - but not canceled - because of the pandemic.

Instead, Team Kidney Bean, along with hundreds of others, will participate in the Celebration of Life online.

The Long Branch 5K event will be a 90-minute virtual event beginning at 10 a.m. It can be viewed at NJSharingNetwork.org/5K.  The event is presented by Hackensack Meridian Health and supported by dozens of other generous sponsors.

Like NJ Sharing Network’s other 5K events, the Virtual 5K will be a healing and uplifting experience for those whose lives have been touched by organ and tissue donation and transplantation.  The inspiring live and interactive program will include special acknowledgement of teams, participants and sponsors, and the ability to post live on-screen comments.

Participants are also encouraged to walk or run their own 5K route in their own neighborhoods following the live program and share updates, images and videos with NJ Sharing Network on social media.  For more information or to sign up, please visit NJSharingNetwork.org/5K.

“Clearly, we all wish that we could come together in person, but nothing will stop us from celebrating the gift of life,” said Chris Bautista, chair of the Virtual 5K and captain of Team Luke, the team created in memory of Chris’ son Luke David Bautista, who passed away at age 15, but was able to donate his heart, both kidneys, liver and pancreas to save the lives of five people.

“Our Virtual 5K will be a special way to honor those who gave, pay tribute to those who received, offer hope to those who continue to wait and remember the lives lost while waiting for the gift of life.  Our virtual platform will also allow us to connect and share our message throughout New Jersey and beyond.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Celebration of Life events, which first began with an event in 2011 at NJ Sharing Network in New Providence.

“Ten years ago, we could not have imagined the incredible impact that our 5K Celebration of Life events would have on the donation community,” said Elisse E. Glennon, vice president and chief administrative officer, NJ Sharing Network.  “Since its inception, more than $8 million has been raised to increase the number of lives saved through innovative transplant research, family support, public awareness and education about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.  We plan to keep going until we ensure that everyone who needs a life-saving transplant gets one.  We thank all the families, friends, volunteers and sponsors who have participated every year - especially those that will join us virtually in May.”

In addition to the Long Branch Virtual 5K, NJ Sharing Network will hold its New Providence 5K Celebration of Life on Sunday, Sept. 13, at its headquarters.  This event will be a 5K Walk & USATF Certified Race.

In 2019, 1,400 generous donors gave the gift of life and the number of organ donors surpassed 200 for the first time in New Jersey – 206 generous individuals saved lives through donation, resulting in 601 organs transplanted. 

An additional 1,139 donors helped heal and enhance the quality of life of those in need of tissue and eye transplants while 173 individuals made the decision to give life as living kidney donors.  Today, there are nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents awaiting a life-saving transplant. 

Every day, approximately three people are added to the New Jersey waiting list.  One organ donor can save eight lives and one tissue donor can restore health to over 75 people.  New Jersey residents can help save lives by registering as organ and tissue donors, having a conversation with family and friends and getting involved at NJSharingNetwork.org.