Health & Wellness

Santa Stops By Saint Barnabas Medical Center; Organ Transplant Recipients Celebrate the Gift of Life

Santa arrives to the delight of the guests. Credits: George Leroy Hunter
Ralph Faga of New York and Mike DiPiano of Nutley, N.J. as Saint Nick. Both are organ transplant recipients. DiPiano's organization 'Big D's Gift of Life Foundation' helps raise money and spread awareness about organ transplants. Credits: George Leroy Hunter
The Love Family of Randolph, New Jersey pose with Santa. From left Kyle Love (13), Lyndsey Love (2), Justin Love (11). Back row is mother Lucille Love and grandmother Doris Love.  A family member (not in photo)  is an organ transplant recipient. Credits: George Leroy Hunter
Santa about to give a gift. Credits: George Leroy Hunter
Credits: George Leroy Hunter
From left Santa, Shareena Weston, Kimberly and Kaia Foddrell of Orange, N.J. Credits: George Leroy Hunter

LIVINGSTON, NJ - Young organ transplant recipients received presents and enjoyed good holiday cheer at the third annual Saint Barnabas Medical Center Pediatric Transplant Christmas Party on Thursday evening. 

The concept of the organ transplant Christmas party was the idea of Mike DiPiano of Nutley, New Jersey. DiPiano, a retired athletic director and wrestling coach who worked at Saint Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark, N.J., was the recipient of a kidney and pancreas transplant 13 years ago at Saint Barnabas. Since then, DiPiano has given back to his community and beyond by spreading the word about the importance of being an organ donor and educating the public about organ transplant issues.

Big D's Gift of Life Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by DiPiano that helps raise money for transplant recipients and their families. DiPiano explained, "I have dedicated my life since my own transplant to helping other organ tranplant recipients. I visit children and adults on dialysis and encourage them. I visit high schools during the course of the year to educate students about organ donation and transplant recipient issues as part of their health education classes."

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Big D's Gift of Life Foundation works in conjunction with Team Liberty. Team Liberty is comprised of organ transplant recipients and their families, donor families, living donors and transplant professionals within the United States.

DiPiano is assisted in his efforts by his wife and three children and by dedicated volunteers, many of them organ transplant recipients themselves.  He seemed to relish the opportunity as he passed out wrapped gifts to a room full of children on Thursday night. The Saint Barnabas Medical Center staff provided food and logistical support for the event.

Organ transplant recipients received delightful gifts on Thursday at the Christmas party but they already received what is perhaps the greatest gift of all...the gift of life.

For those who would like to donate or volunteer their time to Big D's Gift of Life Foundation or Team Liberty, visit the Team Liberty website

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