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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.

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On the Road Again

The popular NJ Sharing Network promotional van has hit the streets with a brand new design! Be sure to keep an eye out and honk (gently) if you see the van on the road for upcoming events.

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Every Community Needs Heroes

Community outreach and education always plays a critical role in NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission. In recent months, team members, advocates, volunteers and partners were thrilled to begin safely reconnecting in person. Partner hospitals, schools, houses of worship and neighborhood organizations have also resumed many awareness events and activities. Outreach efforts continue to flourish online and in local news media thanks to those who share their uplifting stories and messages.

NJ Sharing Network’s “Every Community Needs Heroes” communications campaign is giving a strong boost to outreach efforts with an inspiring message that conveys the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor. It features a variety of photos showing donor heroes of all ages, races and ethnicities united by a common focus on helping others. Digital and print templates can be used ‘as is’ or customized to effectively connect with all audiences! Learn more and download resources at NJSharingNetwork.org/Every-Community-Needs-Heroes.