New Providence, NJ (PRWEB) June 09, 2013
Nearly 6,000 people, all touched in some way by organ and tissue donation, walked or ran through the streets of New Providence today in the 3nd Annual NJ Sharing Network 5K Walk & USATF-Certified Race.
Just under 300 teams participated. Each team, united by matching T-shirts, told a poignant story.
Some teams walked to honor the legacy of a loved one who became an organ donor. Others walked as a tribute to someone whose life was saved by organ and tissue donation. And others participated to give hope to those waiting for a life-saving organ, or to remember someone who died while waiting.
“We are thrilled with the record-breaking turnout,” Peter Rooney, chairman of the NJ Sharing Network Foundation, told the sea of people gathered under clear blue skies. “It is because of all your hard work that we have this amazing event today to support our mission to save and enhance lives through organ and tissue donation.”
The event has raised more than $650,000 so far, though the figure is expected to rise as contributions continue. The philanthropic dollars support research, donor family support programs and education to raise awareness about the life-saving value of organ and tissue donation. Nearly 5,000 people in New Jersey currently are waiting for life-saving organs.
In some teams, organ recipients walked with the families of their donors.
The team, Querido Corazon, honored Jorge Gonzales, who died in a car accident in Florida at the age of 19. His sister and mother, Lucia and Magaly Gonzales, traveled to New Jersey to participate in the 5K with Mark Reagan, of Basking Ridge. Reagan received Jorge's heart.
“As difficult as it was to have lost my brother, this gave me the opportunity to meet Mark. If Jorge could have handpicked Mark he would have. He has brought light into our darkness,” said Lucia Gonzales.
Mark called himself an Irishman with a Latin heart.
Bryan Mueller of New Milford also walked with the family of his donor.
“You can't put words together to truly describe how thankful you are for this gift,” said Mueller, who received a kidney from donor Robert Walker, whose family also participated in Team 360.
Living kidney donors also walked with the recipients of their kidneys. One team, called Share Your Spare, celebrated the life-restoring kidney that Gerard Crosbie of Hazlet received from his daughter-in-law Catherine Crosbie.
“I feel great. I am 1,000 percent better, and I am here today because when you receive something this important you have to give back,” Gerard Crosbie said.
Some teams have been growing in the three years since the 5K began. Team Buck honors Dan Buckiewicz of Hopewell Township, who died in a car accident in 2009. His mother, Jane Buckiewicz, said the event helps keep her son's legacy alive. The team has grown to 75 members.
"It's our family, all his friends from high school and college, and it's just been a terrific way to keep his memory alive. We all love getting together, just to think about him for a whole day,” she said.
Team Evan remembers Evan Laible of Pittstown, who drowned at the age of one. More than 80 people participated in the team.
“After you lose someone unexpectedly that you're so close with it is wonderful to honor them for the hero that they are. And truly from the bottom of my heart, I know that NJ Sharing Network believes he is a hero just as much as we believe he is a hero,” his mother Beth Laible said.
For others the day was a way to keep hope alive as they or a loved one waits for a life-saving organ.
Susan Vonk created Karen's Support Team. Karen Vonk was a healthy, educated young woman until two years ago, when pulmonary fibrosis began destroying her lungs. Now she is on the waiting list for a lung transplant.
“We are here today to show that we are in full support of NJ Sharing Network and their goals,” Susan Vonk said. “We hope we can find lungs for Karen. She wants nothing more than to get back to work and to get back out in the world.”
Race Winners for USATF-Certified 5K Race
Men: Bryan McDonnell, 27, Oakland (overall race winner), Mark Weinhoffer, 20, Gillette, Steven Monteleone, 23, Berkeley Heights. Women: Alexandra Niles, 29, Fairfield, Janel Parker, 23, Freehold, Macey Marko, 23, Somerset.
NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Walk/Race is presented by Pfizer, hosted in conjunction with the New Providence Business Community, and sponsored by Novartis. Other corporate partners include: Barnabas Health, Community Tissue Services, Document Solutions, Genentech, a member of Roche Group, International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine, LifeCell Corporation, Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, PNC Wealth Management, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, ShopRite (Village Supermarkets), Wells Fargo Bank, NA, Wiss & Company, LLP, ASA Apple, Inc., The Hampshire Real Estate Companies, Investors Bank, Lourdes Health System, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, Mark & Helen Reagan, William H. Connolly & Co., LLC, Adams Stern Gutierrez & Lattiboudere, LLC, Evergreen Millenium, Eastwick Education, Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc., Jersey City Medical Center, Loran Associates, Inc., McCabe Ambulance EMS, Meridian Health, New Jersey Association of School Resource Officers, Overlook Medical Center, The Valley Hospital, Sanford-Brown Institute, Care Point Health, Dilworth Paxon, LLP, McCabe Ambulance EMS, New Providence Chiropractic, Quest Diagnostics, University Hospital Center for Liver Diseases, and Union County Conference PBA.
To make a financial contribution to the 5K Walk/Race, visit http://www.NJSharingNetwork.org. You can also visit the website or call 1-800-742-7365 to learn more about organ and tissue donation and register as an organ and tissue donor.
About NJ Sharing Network
NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit, federally designated organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for New Jersey residents in need of life-saving transplants. NJ Sharing Network partners with Donate Life America, a not-for-profit national alliance that drives communities to increase their numbers of registered donors. NJ Sharing Network honors those who gave, pays tribute to those who received, offers hope to those who continue to wait, and remembers the lives lost while waiting...for the gift of life.
About NJ Sharing Network Foundation
NJ Sharing Network Foundation is committed to supporting the work of NJ Sharing Network and to increasing the number of lives saved through education, research, donor family support and public awareness about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.