NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Peter DeSarno, of New Providence, was recently among recipients of a "NJCPA Volunteer Award" by the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants at their annual statewide convention in Atlantic city. 

A release by the NJCPA said, "Peter is the very definition of what 'giving back' is all about. -- Today, after a 20 plus year career in public and corporate accounting, Peter works as the controller for the NJ Sharing Network. He continues to help spread the important lifesaving message of organ and tissue donation by helping to sign up donors, staff information tables or tell his inspirational story to students."

"Volunteerism and giving back is something I feel very strongly about as I am always mindful and appreciative of the gift of sight that I received from my two cornea donors," said DeSarno.

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When DeSarno was only 17 years old, he had been playing baseball as a junior in high school when he noticed he was having difficulty seeing the ball. 

“It became quickly apparent that I was experiencing a serious decline in my vision, and after many trips to various eye specialists in New Jersey and New York, I was diagnosed with a condition called Keratoconus,” DeSarno said.

This condition damages the cornea, causing it to become "distorted and cone-shaped." If left untreated, the condition would have deteriorated DeSarno’s vision, making it extremely difficult for him to live a normal life.

As DeSarno was earning his undergraduate accounting degree, specially-crafted contact lenses temporarily repaired his vision. However, from working long hours in public accounting, the contact lenses were no longer effective; the condition’s progression had caused "severe curvature and a significant level of distortion" to his cornea. DeSarno’s doctor recommended that he have cornea transplants in both eyes.

“At the age of 24, I received cornea transplants that restored my vision and forever changed my life. My first transplant was in my left eye, and the gift of that donor cornea came to me with the assistance of the Lions Eye Bank of Texas,” DeSarno said. “The gift of my second donor cornea (for my right eye) was procured with the assistance of the Lions Eye Bank of NJ and NJ Sharing Network, whose mission is to save and enhance lives through organ and tissue donation.”

In 2014, DeSarno and his 13-year-old daughter, Paige, became certified volunteers of NJ Sharing Network, after Paige had received donor cartilage to repair an injury in her knee.

“From the moment we entered the NJ Sharing Network headquarters for volunteer training, we knew that the experience would be something special. The level of respect and care taken to honor donors and their families and loved ones was truly special,” DeSarno said. “To say the feelings in the room that night were so powerful that they reaffirmed one's faith in humanity would not be an exaggeration. Paige and I left the training as grateful recipients who felt compelled to help spread the important lifesaving and enhancing message of organ and tissue donation.”

After becoming a certified volunteer, Paige immediately organized a donor registration program in New Providence. With the help of NJ Sharing Network and the New Providence Lions Club, Paige was able to recruit volunteers to assist her in the upcoming donor drive.

Information tables were set up in front of their local supermarket and diner the following week; the donor registration drive was a success. Since then, both DeSarno and his daughter have represented NJ Sharing Network as volunteers at many events and at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Here in New Providence, DeSarno serves on the Zoning Board of Adjustments, participates on the Economic Development Committee and is extremely active within the Lions Club. As someone who is always excited to give back to his town, DeSarno was recently awarded the NJCPA Volunteer Award, which recognizes members who make significant differences in their communities. As a strong advocate for both the CPA profession and organ donation, DeSarno was a perfect fit for the award.

“I will forever be grateful for the vision that my donors have provided me and the organizations that played a role in helping to procure my corneas,” DeSarno said. “The gift of sight that I have been given has allowed me to see the details of my wife’s face and watch my three children grow.”

After an over 20-year career in public and corporate accounting, DeSarno now works as an Adjunct Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and is the Controller of NJ Sharing Network; the same organization that brought back his vision.

“While the impact of restoring my vision is a gift well beyond words, there is another gift that this experience has provided me. When I received my corneas, I was also given the gift of perspective; the perspective to know that there are wonderful people in this world,” DeSarno said. “While I have unfortunately not been able to make contact with the loved ones of my two donors, I know that those donors and their families were willing to help a fellow human being they did not even know.”