SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Right this very minute, there are over 120,000 people in the United States – 4,000 in the Garden State alone – awaiting an organ or tissue transplant. Despite the 2.5 million registered organ and tissue donors in the state, less than 1 percent will qualify upon death to be donors. As a result, one New Jersey resident dies every three days awaiting a transplant.

According to Donate Life America (http://www.donatelife.net), approximately 95 percent of Americans say they support organ donation, yet only about 50 percent are registered.“

Fortunately, for those looking to register as donors and/or those in need of a donation, NJ Sharing Network, is there to help.

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Located in New Providence, the federally designated procurement organization (OPO) is dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation. The organization, which this year is celebrating 30 years of saving lives, recovers organs and tissue and belongs to a national network that helps the 120,000 people waiting for a transplant. Additionally, the non-profit works to spread the word about the importance of donation and transplantation.

“Our goal is to save as many lives as possible of people in end-stage organ failure through encouraging and increasing the number of organs donated and transplanted,” said Joe Roth, president and CEO of the NJ Sharing Network.

In 2016, the NJ Sharing Network achieved another record-breaking year making 613 transplants possible, representing a 16 percent increase from 2015. Tissue donation also broke records for the organization with a 10 percent increase from the previous year.

“Last year, more lives were saved than ever before,” said Roth. “Thanks to the selflessness of New Jersey organ donors and their families who said yes to donation, 613 people are alive today.”

NJ Sharing Network operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and features a team of 150 highly-trained staff members as well as governing and foundation boards made up of a diverse population of dedicated volunteers, many who were organ recipients or donors themselves, and their family members.

Among the dedicated volunteers is lifelong South Plainfield resident Trish Boyce, who in March 1999, donated a kidney to her husband, Howard. Looking to spread the word about the importance of donation and transplant, Trish began raising awareness with NJ Sharing Network in 2004.

“I was looking to give back, help others and spread the word about the importance of organ and tissue donation and how important it is for others to register to be donors,” Trish told TAPinto South Plainfield. “I found the network after some online research and have been involved ever since.”

For the Boyce family, receiving a transplant from a non-blood related donor was vital. Howard is one of seven children, five of which received kidney transplants due – some from living donors, others from deceased donors – to polycystic kidney disease (PKD). When turning to family was not an option for Howard, Trish herself got tested.

“It was an amazing thing that happened – being the same blood type and a perfect match. It is kind of amazing and means we really were meant to be,” Trish said.

In the years since Howard’s transplant, the Boyces have remained dedicated to NJ Sharing Network and its mission. In addition to donating her time, Trish was employed by the organization as a volunteer coordinator for a few years and today she and Howard remain dedicated supporters, sharing their story with others in the hopes of encouraging others to register as donors.

They have taken part in speaking engagements, including the kidney transplant portion of the organization’s high school program Live from Surgery held at Liberty Science Center. They also speak at their church, Wesley United Methodist in South Plainfield. Additionally, four years ago, they launched ‘Wesley Walkers,’ a 5K Celebration of Life team in honor of their friend Helen Hunter, a fellow parishioner and resident of Middlesex who underwent a transplant five years ago due to PKD.

NJ Sharing Network's Annual 5K Celebration of Life brings together thousands of walkers, runners and volunteers to honor those who gave the gift of organ or tissue, pay tribute to those who have a received a transplant, offer hope to those waiting for a transplant, and remember those who passed away while waiting for the gift of life. Funds raised by the NJ Sharing Network Foundation support donor families, research and education about organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

“Each year, our friends, family and members of the church join use for two- to three walks each year, including one held in New Providence and another in Long Branch,” said Trish.

“The Sharing Network is doing such great work as far as spreading the word and it is important that people are aware of all the organization does and how they, too, can help,” said Trish.

Additionally, one organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and restore health to over 50 others. “The gift of organ donation can mean to so many people; one donor can give seven or eight organs plus the tissue. It can affect so many lives. It is important that people are aware of this,” added Trish.

According to Roth, the success of the network is attributed greatly to volunteers like Trish and Howard Boyce. “We are a non-profit and we don't have the unlimited resources necessary to get the message out,” Roth said, adding, “Our volunteers are great multipliers in helping us educate the public on the need for organ donation. They are vital to ensuring the network continues its mission of saving lives.”

For more information on the NJ Sharing Network, visit https://www.njsharingnetwork.org/our-mission. To register with the National Donate Life Registry, visit http://www.njsharingnetwork.org or stop by your local New Jersey State Motor Vehicle Agency. iPhone users can also register straight from their device’s Health app.

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