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35 Years of Saving Lives

35 years ago today, NJ Sharing Network was established with nine employees dedicated to our life-saving mission. Our team has grown to over 200 compassionate staff members, but our mission remains the same: saving and enhancing lives through organ and tissue donation and honoring our donors and their families for their generous gift of life.

Thank you to our hospital partners, volunteers, advocates and members of our donation community for 35 years of support. We couldn’t do what we do without you. #Grateful#Inspired#35Years#DonateLife

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It’s more than a 5K, it’s a Celebration of Life!

Join us on Sunday, June 5 in New Providence for our 5K Celebration of Life! Learn more at www.SharingNetworkFoundation/5K.

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Volunteers Crochet and Knit Shawls and Blankets to Show Love and Support for NJ Organ and Tissue Donor Families

National Volunteer Week was an opportunity to thank all volunteers who dedicate their time and talent to help others. Locally, dozens of volunteers from throughout New Jersey recently crocheted and knitted over 900 shawls and blankets to express love and support for families of deceased organ and tissue donors. Their caring efforts are part of NJ Sharing Network’s Wrapped in Love Program.

A team of volunteers came together at NJ Sharing Network’s headquarters in New Providence to package the donations and add personalized messages of support before distributing to organ and tissue donor families. Pictured at the ‘packaging meeting’ are local volunteers Adlinna Liang; Marilyn Esnes; Divya Tellakula; Grace Wamsteker; Janet Vigeland; Arlene Kaplan; Lisa Colasurdo, Coordinator for NJ Sharing Network’s Wrapped in Love Program; Janet Crowe; Noreen Reilly; Dede Duffy; Nancy Michael; Cathy Rooney; and Carol Kessler.

Marilyn Esnes of Berkeley Heights is a NJ Sharing Network Wrapped in Love volunteer who understands the positive impact a handmade shawl or blanket can bring to donor families.

“As the caregiver of a lung transplant recipient, my husband, I understand the difficult decision a loved one must make to give the gift of life to others,” said Esnes. “At the time I was sitting in the waiting room at the hospital for my husband’s life-saving transplant, I kept thinking of my husband and praying for the medical staff but also for the donor family. While I was very worried and scared, I thought of the family who made that decision to donate organs and what they were going through. My heart ached for them and what they must have been going through. I was so appreciative of their generosity and love. When I learned of NJ Sharing Network’s Wrapped in Love Program, I volunteered right away to help alleviate someone’s pain.”

Carolyn Welsh, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of NJ Sharing Network, is inspired by the overwhelming expressions of support of NJ Sharing Network’s volunteers.

“We applaud the compassionate efforts of our Wrapped in Love volunteers who selflessly offer their time and talent to support donor families,” said Welsh. “Our volunteers continue to provide comfort to families after suffering the loss of a loved one when it is needed most.”

NJ Sharing Network received the following messages from local families of deceased organ donors who received Wrapped in Love shawls and blankets:

Thank you for the beautifully handmade wrap that was crafted for me. It is a precious reminder of the gift of life that my son was able to give. We miss him dearly but find comfort in knowing that his gift lives on in others. We do appreciate your kindness.”

“Dropping a note to thank you for the beautiful handmade shawl. My husband passed away two years ago and every day I think of him as it was so unexpected. I was glad he was able to give the gift of sight to two people. My shawl will give me peace and comfort when I am wrapped in love. It was so very thoughtful of your organization.”

“Thank you for the beautifully crocheted lap blanket sent to me in honor of my husband’s ultimate generosity upon his death. He was an amazing man that I was blessed to share my life with, he loved everyone, and his heart overflowed. God bless you all.”

For more information about NJ Sharing Network’s Wrapped in Love Program, please call 908-516-5687 or email lcolasurdo@njsharingnetwork.org.

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Joyce McMullen of Milltown reflects on her connection to organ donation and transplantation.

Joyce McMullen is truly a fighter and survivor. It was 25 years ago when Joyce received a successful kidney transplant that saved her life after struggling for many years with serious health concerns.

“My kidney transplant gave our family a whole new outlook on what a normal life could be,” said Joyce. “I was able to be a wife and mother who felt energetic and healthy. Thanks to my kidney donor, I was able to be a part of my daughter Kristen’s entire childhood. I watched her graduate with a master’s degree and go on to a successful career.”

While Joyce’s transplanted kidney still has some limited function, she is currently on dialysis and awaiting another kidney transplant. Her past health challenges have given her strength and hope for a better tomorrow.

“I have never taken life for granted, and I am forever grateful of the support of my husband, Michael, and our daughter,” said Joyce. “I continue to pray and stay positive that I will see more sunsets and be able to spend more time with my family and friends.”

Joyce also finds inspiration and comfort in some of her favorite song lyrics from The Rolling Stones:

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime
You’ll find
You get what you need

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Old Tappan’s Bob Scozzafava Celebrates First Anniversary of His Life-Saving Liver Transplant

Bob Scozzafava, 65, is taking time to reflect on the gift of life and the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation as he celebrates the one-year anniversary of his life-saving liver transplant.

“Every day is a blessing thanks to the generosity of my organ donor hero,” said Bob, who received a successful liver transplant on February 28, 2021. “My health had reached a point where doctors told me ‘if you don’t get a transplant, you are going to die.’ Today, I feel great, and I am enjoying every moment with my family and loved ones.”

Bob and his wife Valerie celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in November. Their son Nicholas, 30, and daughter Julia, 27, are thrilled to see their father full of energy and living life to its fullest. The close-knit family, along with about 150 of their friends, came together for Nicholas’ wedding last May, just over two months after Bob’s transplant surgery.

“I really enjoyed dancing up a storm at the wedding,” said Bob. “And I am proud to say that I have powerwalked over 300 miles during my first year post-transplant.”

Bob has also made a priority to serve as a volunteer for NJ Sharing Network, the nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for the nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents waiting for a transplant.

“My goal is to share my story with others to get more people to register as donors and also help boost the morale of those on the waiting list for transplant,” said Bob. “Volunteering for NJ Sharing Network is also another way for me to honor the memory of my donor hero.”

Bob’s Transplant Journey
Bob’s serious health issues began in 2018 when an endoscopy found varices in his esophagus. In September 2018, further tests indicated that Bob had cirrhosis of the liver caused by a fatty liver (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). As his health declined, he was added to liver transplant lists in the Northeast in June 2019 and later to transplant lists in Florida.

“In addition to my family, I am thankful that I participated in support group discussions on Zoom with transplant recipients and others on the waiting list,” said Bob. “Talking regularly with my mentor inspired me to stay strong.”

On February 27, 2021, Bob and Valerie were at their Florida apartment when they received the phone call that a liver was available for transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. They quickly rushed to the hospital and were greeted at the front door by caring professionals with a wheelchair to help transport Bob to his room.

“I remember that I refused to ride in the wheelchair because my transplant mentor told me that I needed to stay active to help get me ready to walk out on my own two feet after my transplant,” said Bob.

Seven days later, Bob did exactly that.

Bob’s nurses and doctors were surprised that he was able to walk on his own only three days after his transplant. Valerie was also surprised to see Bob standing on his own the next morning after his transplant.

“Prior to my transplant, I was suffering a great deal. I had extremely painful cramps in my legs from my ankles up to my thighs,” said Bob. “After my transplant, it was wild! All my leg cramps were completely gone immediately, and I have never had them since. My transplant proved to be a perfect match.”

Bob wrote a heartfelt thank you letter that he gave to a local organ procurement organization (OPO) in Florida to deliver to the family of his deceased liver donor. Bob was overjoyed when the OPO forwarded correspondence back from his donor’s husband and discovered his donor was a married mother of four.

“He wrote that my letter and words of gratitude helped take away a great deal of his sadness,” said Bob. “Our families are now forever linked through the gift of life.”

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Carolyn M. Welsh appointed Chief Operating Officer for NJ Sharing Network

We are pleased to announce that Carolyn Welsh has been appointed Chief Operating Officer for NJ Sharing Network.

“For 23 years, Carolyn’s leadership has helped NJ Sharing Network consistently achieve record growth in the number of lives saved and enhanced through organ and tissue donation and transplantation,” said NJSN President and CEO Joseph S. Roth. “Carolyn’s combination of intellect, passion and compassion have enabled her to make a positive impact, not only here in New Jersey, but within the broader organ and tissue donation community.”

Welsh, who previously served as Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, will oversee the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of NJ Sharing Network, including leading the organization’s clinical services, information technology, human resources, regulatory compliance, performance improvement, hospital and community outreach, and communications.

Since joining NJ Sharing Network in 1999 as a Hospital Services Manager, Welsh has continually advanced to take on new responsibilities. In addition to her role at NJ Sharing Network, Welsh serves on the Board of Directors of Eversight and on the Chief Operating Officer (COO) Council of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO). She previously served on the United Network for Organ Sharing’s (UNOS) OPTN OPO Committee. “I am honored to work with our dedicated team of professionals, community volunteers and partners who are committed to saving lives and improving the health and wellbeing of our neighbors,” said Welsh. “Working to change the world with donation and transplantation is my purpose, and I am excited to take on additional responsibilities and challenges to further advance our life-saving mission.”

Welsh earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Seton Hall University and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Nonprofit Management from North Central University. Welsh lives in Colts Neck, NJ with her husband, Tom, their sons Scott and Kyle, and their family dog, Riley.

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Celebrate National Donor Day with us on February 14!

February 14 is National Donor Day, dedicated to spreading awareness about donation and honoring the generosity of organ and tissue donors and their families.

One donor can save 8 lives and enhance the lives of over 75 others.

Join us in our life-saving mission by encouraging someone today to register as an organ and tissue donor.

Read the heartwarming stories of hope below. There’s no greater way to share the love than through the gift of life!

Bernard China of Newark calls December 30 his “second birthday” to remember the date of his life-saving heart transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBI). The road to Bernard’s transplant began in August 2017, when he woke during the night and found it hard to breathe. Tests showed signs of heart failure and his condition worsened in the months and years ahead. On December 29, 2020, Bernard had been despondent on a call with his wife, Constance, as he waited for a transplant miracle. Constance and their five children urged him to rely on the strong faith they shared. “Bernard, it’s going to come,” Constance insisted. Shortly after midnight, Bernard received the call he was waiting for as a heart was available for transplant. Today, Bernard feels blessed to be back to many of his normal activities and is forever mindful of the selfless decision made by his organ donor.

Jill Szalony of Montclair and her family recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of her life-saving heart transplant. Jill reflects every day on the gift of life that her donor gave her and the miracle of organ donation and transplantation. Jill is an active volunteer with the NJ Sharing Network, encouraging others to register as organ and tissue donors. She is also a member of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Patient Family Advisory Council to help provide healing and support. “All donor families are heroes,” said Jill. “To give others hope and a chance at life when they are faced with sorrow – that is a selfless act of love and kindness. I try to live my life to the fullest in honor of my donor. Whenever I experience beauty in the world, a new adventure, or something amazing with my family, I thank my donor and her family.”

Help spread the word by visiting us on Facebook and Instragram and sharing our life-saving message with friends and family!

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New Jersey’s Support for Organ and Tissue Donation Reached an All-Time High

In 2021, New Jerseyans continued to show their caring spirit like never before as it was another record-breaking year for NJ Sharing Network – saving and enhancing more lives! The number of organ donors in a single year reached an all-time high as 233 generous individuals gave the gift of life, a 5% increase over last year’s previous record.

We owe these achievements, first and foremost, to our donor heroes, as well as their supportive families. We forever honor them for their selfless decision to save and enhance the lives of countless others who now have more holidays, birthdays and special moments to share with their loved ones.

We are also grateful for the extraordinary efforts of our team members and healthcare partners who work around the clock to help power our life-saving mission. The miracle of donation and transplantation would not be possible without the dedicated support and expertise of our local transplant centers and hospital partners.

The number of New Jerseyans saying ‘YES’ to registering as an organ and tissue donor also jumped 8.3% in 2021, underscoring the overwhelming support for donation in the Garden State.

In 2021, 599 organs were transplanted thanks to donors in New Jersey, including 322 kidneys, 151 livers (new record for liver recoveries), 57 hearts, 49 lungs and 20 pancreases. In addition, 42,112 eye and tissue donations healed and enhanced the quality of life for those in need. Tissue donations include corneas, heart valves, skin grafts, bone grafts, saphenous veins, ligaments, and tendons.

According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), nearly 4,000 people in New Jersey are on the organ transplant waiting list, and one person dies every three days waiting for a transplant. However, New Jersey’s generosity is providing hope for the future. One organ donor can save eight lives, and one tissue donor can enhance the lives of over 75 people.

NJ Sharing Network is well prepared to handle what comes our way thanks to friends, like you. We now move ahead – together – with the hope of even-brighter days to come! Let’s never lose sight of the many blessings we’ve been given, and remember that even the simplest act of kindness can make a world of difference to those around us.

Thank you for giving of yourself to help others and for all that do to save and enhance lives each and every day!

Joseph S. Roth President and Chief Executive Officer

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Fair Lawn’s Frank Piccininni Celebrates Son’s 20-Year Heart Transplant Anniversary by Running ‘Homemade’ Marathon to Raise Awareness and Funds to Support Organ and Tissue Donation

Frank Piccininni of Fair Lawn, NJ, recently ran his own ‘homemade’ 26.2-mile marathon in Bergen County to raise awareness and funds to support the Sharing Network Foundation and the Hearts for Emma Partner Fund. Family and friends of the Piccininni family came together to raise more than $4,600 in honor of Frank’s son Christopher Piccininni’s 20-year heart transplant anniversary.
“Christopher was given a second chance at life when he received a heart transplant in December 2001 when he was just 6-months old,” said Frank. “Without this gift, Christopher would not be with us today. His life is a daily reminder of the power of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. We feel extremely blessed, and are committed to raising awareness about the importance of registering as organ and tissue donors to help save lives.”

During Frank’s homemade “Running for Christopher” marathon, he trekked through neighborhoods and paths in Fair Lawn, Rochelle Park and Ridgewood before ending his route in Dunkerhook Park in Paramus. Although Frank has completed at least nine official marathons, he wanted this one to be extra special in honor of Christopher’s transplant anniversary. After 4:20:56 (four hours, 20 minutes, 6 seconds), Frank was greeted at the finish line by his wife Jacky, sons Christopher and Ryan, and many friends and loved ones.

“When I was thinking about doing this, I didn’t want to travel and, because he is immunocompromised, I wanted to keep Christopher safe,” said Frank. “I am used to running alone so it was inspiring to see my family and friends at the start, finish and throughout the route.”

Christopher, now 20, was just nine weeks old when he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition which enlarged his heart, making it unable to pump enough blood. His only hope for survival was a heart transplant. After spending four months at Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Pediatric ICU in Manhattan, thanks to his donor, he underwent a successful heart transplant, giving him a second chance at life.

Christopher continues to live a healthy and active lifestyle as a student at NJIT studying biomedical engineering. He graduated from Fair Lawn High School where he competed as a varsity swimmer all four years.

“I am so proud of my dad for running to raise money for the Sharing Network Foundation and the Hearts for Emma Partner Fund,” said Christopher. “After being given 20 years of life that I wouldn’t have gotten without a transplant, the only thing we can do in return is to help raise funds and advocate for organ and tissue donation.”

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National Donor Sabbath

In November, we celebrated National Donor Sabbath with activities focused on educating faith-based communities about the critical need for organ and tissue donation, and the vital role faith plays in making the decision to register as a donor. Most major religions in the United States support donation as an unselfish act of charity. Several local faith leaders and those active in their faith community shared inspirational stories and unique perspectives during Faith and the Miracle of Organ and Tissue Donation, an entertaining, informative event streamed live on NJ Sharing Network’s Facebook or YouTube channels.