UNION COUNTY, NJ — More than 113,000 people in the U.S. -- including seven residents of Scotch Plains -- were on the national transplant waiting list as of January, according to the federal Health Department.

Every April, National Donate Life Month raises awareness for organ and tissue donation.

Eric Walano, Cranford native, recently donated his kidney, and on Thursday night the Union County Freeholders recognized him for doing so.

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After learning about organ donation at a charity gala in 2017, Wolano registered as an altruistic kidney donor, said Freeholder Vice Chair Al Mirabella. An altruistic kidney donor agrees to donate to a match, whether or not they are a family member who is waiting for a donation.

"Seven months later, Wolano underwent surgery and donated his kidney to someone in need," Mirabella said.

As he accepted the resolution, Wolano encouraged others to get involved with organ and tissue donation.

“Whether it’s just checking off that box on the back of your driver’s license, or learning a little bit more about organ and tissue donation in general, it’s a huge help,” Wolano said. “It’s really molded a portion of my life, and several others, over this past year or so.”

Wolano and many other organ and tissue donors throughout the state receive support from the New Jersey Sharing Network, a state nonprofit organization that facilitates organ recovery and placement. The Freeholders also presented a resolution to Elisse Glennon, a VP of the New Jersey Sharing Network, in recognition of National Donate Life Month.

“In the last five years, organ and tissue donation has increased 35 percent,” Glennon said. “The education and the awareness is currently working, but there’s still so much more work to do.”

Nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents are currently awaiting an organ transplant, Glennon said. The New Jersey Sharing Network has a database that tells how many residents of each municipality are on the organ transplant list, Glennon explained.

In 2003, Donate Life America and its partners established the National Donate Life Month (NDLM) to encourage Americans to organ, eye, and tissue donors. More information about NDLM can be found on the Donate Life America website. To register as an organ donor, or to find out more about organ donation, visit organdonor.gov.

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