The NJ Sharing Network Foundation’s 5K Race to Save Lives Through Organ & Tissue Donation has raised a record-breaking $1 million in the two years since the event began, a remarkable achievement, the organization announced today.
“This is only our second year of the 5K and we are gratified with our ability to successfully raise $607,000 this year, bringing our two-year total to more than $1 million,” said Elisse Glennon, executive director, NJ Sharing Network Foundation, based in New Providence. “These funds will further our mission to save and enhance lives through organ and tissue donation.”
Glennon credited event sponsors and New Providence Business and Professional Association, which co-hosted the 5K, and the hard work and dedication of the 245 teams who ran or walked in the 5K on June 10. Some ran to honor those who donated organs or to support those who received organs. Others walked to give hope to those on a waiting list of nearly 5,000 people in New Jersey and to remember those who passed away while waiting for a transplant.
The highest fundraising team at this year’s “NJ Sharing Network Foundation’s 5K Race to Save Lives Through Organ & Tissue Donation” honored the legacy of Anthony Rizzo, who died in 2010 at the age of 16 after being hit by a car while crossing the street on his way to school. His organs saved the lives of seven people and allowed two others to regain the gift of sight.
To Anthony's mother, Suzann Rizzo of Staten Island, the fundraising effort honors the legacy of her son – and saves lives. She said many of her colleagues at Investors Bank, where she works as assistant vice president and branch manager in Carteret, know her son's story and were eager to join her team and support her fundraising efforts.
“I love telling my son’s story because it keeps his legacy alive,” she said. “Talking about Anthony makes me happy and raising money for organ donation saves lives. What better way to spend a day?”
“In the Spirit of Anthony Rizzo” team raised over $18,000. With corporate sponsorships, including Investors Bank, the figure rose to just over $32,000.
gigRizzo said contributions came from many branches of Investors Bank. “I am very personable with my clients and I love my job, and we are all very involved in our communities. I have the CEO, Kevin Cummings, and the COO, Dominick Cama, behind me. I am very fortunate,” she said.
She recalls her son as a “beautiful young man who had a smile that could light up a room.” He played soccer from the age of four and attended school at Saint Joseph By-the-Sea High School in Staten Island. Rizzo has two other teenagers, a boy and a girl, who were also part of her team to honor Anthony’s memory.
Nearly 5,000 people participated in this year’s 5K, most connected through the story of an organ donor or recipient – or someone on the waiting list, producing a record turnout. Fundraising increased 35 percent from the year before.
Joe Roth, president and chief executive officer of NJ Sharing Network, said the turnout exceeded expectations. “Our foundation's 5K walk/run has quickly become a wonderful event that thanks our donor families, supports our recipients, remembers those who died while waiting for a transplant, and gives hope to those who are waiting for life-saving organs,” he said.
Roth added: “Participants have already marked their calendars for next year’s 5K walk/run. We look forward to seeing everyone who participated this year at next year’s 5K walk/run on June 9.”