April 12th Was a Perfect Day for a 5K!

Hi Everyone,

I hope you have all been enjoying all the Donate Life Month activities that have been happening around our community. I have been one busy girl! I participated in NJ Sharing Network’s 5th Annual 5K Celebration of Life in Bergen Community College this past Sunday April 12, along with nearly 2,000 of my closest friends…and we had a blast!

Donor families, transplant recipients, living donors, those waiting for a transplant, volunteers, elected officials and hospital and corporate sponsors came together and enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day to honor those who gave, pay tribute to transplant recipients who received a second chance at life, offer hope to those still waiting, and remember those who died while waiting…for the gift of life.

With Team BCC

Here I am with my friend Mr. Pumps and members of Team BCC, including the president of Bergen Community College, Dr. B. Kaye Walter!

This was NJ Sharing Network’s first 5K in Bergen County and we were very lucky to have partnered with Bergen Community College, who was our host. Our 5K Celebration of Life actually served as a kickoff to Bergen Community College’s Health Week, which makes me very proud, because as you know, I like to keep my heart healthy and pumping! :-) Although this was a 5K walk, I saw many of the participants running, which was great, but I was just happy to see so many people be active and enjoying the outdoors again!

We had very special guests join us for the program, including Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno who is extremely supportive of NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission plus Bergen County Executive James J. Tedesco who shared a touching story about his connection to organ and tissue donation. Z100 radio personality Greg T got the crowd pumped as they lined up to start the walk and at 10 am, the sea of walkers took off to the beat of the bag pipes from the Bergen County Firefighters and Pipe Band. It was quite a sight!

There were so many great activities for all ages. We had selfie stations which many participants took advantage of, we had great music and entertainment throughout the day and we had our NJ Sharing Network tents in which participants could admire the beautiful Quilts of Love and sign the memorial banners. Our Kids Corner with arts and crafts, face painting and a bouncy house was extremely popular! Another great activity offered was the water bottle repurposing tent, in which anyone could bring their used water bottles and make them into reusable art such as bird feeders and planters. So cool! We should all do our part to conserve the environment.

I was also very excited to see the variety of healthy refreshments that were offered. There were salads, egg white sandwiches, fruit, granola bars, etc. Everyone seemed to enjoy the treats and they definitely kept with the “Healthy Week” theme. My favorite was the yogurt parfait. Yum!

Thanks to all of you who participated at our 5K on April 12th. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you check out our 5th Annual 5K Celebration of Life – April 12 photo album on Facebook for a sneak peek of our event day photos! Also, the event got some great media coverage, so please visit our Newsroom so you can read all about it!

Okay, I need to go get ready for my practice run for our next 5K Celebration of Life on June 7 in New Providence, which is a 5K Walk and USATF Certified race. Want to join me? Make sure you sign up online. If you signed up exclusively for the April 12 event but would like to join us for another great day, simply e-mail the wonderful staff at NJ Sharing Network at 5K@njsharingnetwork.org and they will take care of you.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the rest of Donate Life Month and stay healthy!

XOXO,

Ms. Pumps

Spring is finally here…and so many exciting things are happening!

Hi everybody! It’s been a while since my last post, but boy have I been busy! My friends at NJ Sharing Network have been working on many new and exciting initiatives that we will be launching this month so get ready, because you will not want to miss this!

First and foremost, it is April…and you know what that means!? It’s National Donate Life Month! I encourage you to join the many businesses, hospitals, schools and communities across the state who demonstrate their support by hosting events or by simply wearing blue and green on national Blue and Green Day on April 17th! And please, don’t be camera shy! Take pictures of your best blue and green frocks and post them on our Facebook or Twitter pages using #NJSN and #BlueGreenDay or send them to John Valentine at JValentine@NJSharingNetwork.org to enter our Donate Life Month photo contest! Too bad I’m not allowed to enter the contest…you all know how much I LOVE pictures of me! To learn how else you can help spread the word of organ and tissue donation during Donate Life Month, download our electronic resource kit here.

Picure of miss pumps at computer

Here I am, just about to sign up for the 5th Annual 5K Celebration of Life Walk on April 12th on our great-looking updated website!

By the way, have you visited our website lately? One of the major projects I was working on over the winter was the makeover to our website and we just refreshed it this month, so please make sure you check it out – www.NJSharingNetwork.org. It looks beautiful, if I do say so myself!

Finally, I can’t think of a better way to kick off Spring and celebrate Donate Life Month than with our 5th Annual Celebration of Life 5K Walk at Bergen Community College in Paramus, NJ on April 12th. I am so excited, I am pumping for joy!! After the winter we have had, I cannot wait to go out there and welcome all our wonderful families and enjoy this fun filled day, which includes music and activities for all ages. If you haven’t signed up, what are you waiting for? Sign up today! I hope to see all of you out there on April 12th! This is the perfect way to get your body moving and in shape in time for Summer!

Stay tuned for my next post and Happy Donate Life Month!

XOXO,

Ms. Pumps

Start off the New Year with the Rose Parade and Donate Life Float!

Happy New Year everyone! WOW, what a year 2014 was… So many amazing memories we’ve all shared celebrating the gift of life, honoring our loved ones and sharing stories with our community. Our NJ Sharing Network family has grown to be so HUGE and all I can say is “How lucky am I to belong to such a wonderful group of people!” I mean really… where else can you find so many dedicated and compassionate people in one place? Thank you all for being so special.

As you may know, the Donate Life Float will represent the gift of life through organ and tissue donation in the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day. Start off the New Year in an exciting way and tune in! This year, there are six families in Pasadena, California with a connection to NJ Sharing Network. Organ and tissue donors will be honored on the Donate Life Float, while recipients and living donors will ride or walk alongside it. The honorees are:

• Joseph D’Addio saved two lives and enhanced the lives of over 80 others as an organ and tissue donor. Joe’s floragraph will be on the float.
• Joe DiSanto received a heart transplant at 11 years old and will be riding on the float in the parade.
• Reenie Harris donated a kidney to a complete stranger and will be walking alongside the float with other living donors.
• Riley Kogen saved the lives of two people as an organ donor and her floragraph will be on the float.
• Melissa Mercado was only six weeks old when she saved the lives of two people. Her floragraph will be on the float.
• Anthony Rizzo saved five lives and gave the gift of sight to two others as an organ and tissue donor. His floragraph will also be on the float.

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Here’s what you need to know:
• The telecast of the 126th Annual Rose Parade on January 1, 2015 will begin at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
• The Rose Parade will air on several networks, including ABC, NBC, HGTV and the Hallmark Channel. Please check your local broadcast listings for more information.
The Donate Life Float will be 25th in the lineup.
• The theme of the 2015 Donate Life Float is “The Never-Ending Story.” It reflects the compassion, courage and life-changing experiences of organ, eye and tissue donors and recipients. The Donate Life Float also reflects the overall parade theme, “Inspiring Stories,” which encourages everyone to celebrate the many people who elevate the human spirit.

Don’t forget to tune in, and if you won’t be home to check it out, be sure to have a friend DVR it!! ;)

Thanks to everyone who made 2014 so spectacular! Here’s to an even better 2015!

XOXO TTYL,

Ms. Pumps

NJ Sharing Network Campus Going Smoke-Free!

Hey everybody!

Hope you’re staying warm and embracing this chilly weather! Personally, I cannot wait for the snow!

I wanted to give you a quick update about something really awesome that NJ Sharing Network is doing on November 20th. In honor of the Great American Smokeout, our campus is going SMOKE FREE… not  for just one day, but permanently! By now you know me, and you know everything I do is over the top. So, I decided to get my film crew together and we made a video about our move to a smoke-free campus. Mr. Pumps and I co-starred, and he did such an awesome job. I am just so proud to call him my heart-partner… even more so now that he’s kicked that bad habit!

Anyway, watch it for yourself! I bet you’ll get a chuckle out of it :)

Thanks for watching and remember… Keep your heart healthy, someone else may need it!


About the Great American Smokeout:
The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November each year by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. By quitting — even for one day — smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.

FACTS:
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet about 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes — a bit under 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2012, there were also 13.4 million cigar smokers in the US, and 2.3 million who smoke tobacco in pipes — other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.

See quitting resources and information from the American Cancer Society.

Anthony Rizzo’s Floragraph Finishing Ceremony

A beautiful ceremony was held on November 6, to honor organ and tissue donor Anthony Rizzo.  Read below to see what his mother, Suzann Rizzo, said to those who attended.

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The Dignity Memorial Network will honor six organ and tissue donor families across the United States with a floragraph of their loved ones that will be featured on the Donate Life Float entry in the 126th Rose Parade on January 1, 2015.  Tonight we celebrate that Dignity Memorial will be sending Joe, Joseph, Elissa and myself to participate in the creation of the Donate Life Float and to honor Anthony with a floragraph.  A floragraph is a memorial portrait of Anthony made out of natural and floral material.  Hundreds of volunteers participate in the creation of the Donate Life float.  His floragraph has been shipped from California to Staten Island to be completed.  We have completed his floragraph and it is now ready to be sent back to California and be placed on the float beside the other honorees.  Anthony will be among 72 honorees on this years float.  We are extremely honored to be a part of such a magnificent event and we would like to thank the Dignity Memorial Network for allowing us to be able share our story with others that have lived what we have lived.  Before we send the floragraph back to California, we wanted to share this wonderful experience with all of you.

This year’s floats theme is “The Never Ending Story” which celebrates the inspiring stories that live on forever through organ and tissue donation. This evening you have listened to only one of the stories.  This story has helped us in our healing process, and our hope is that you spread this story and educate others. We welcome you come, touch, and see what has been created from our earth by volunteers.  Please remember that this is the special time of year that we give Thanks for what God has given us and although Anthony is no longer with us, his story is never ending, and for that we are thankful.

First and foremost I would like to thank everyone for coming this evening to celebrate our son Anthony. The last time we were together like this was when were we all were saying goodbye to a 16 year old boy whose life had tragically ended in a fatal car accident.  Tonight is not about the car accident…tonight is not about saying goodbye.

I’m sure that everyone in this room has experienced tragic loss in one way or another….Whether it being a grandparent, a parent, a spouse, a cousin, a sibling or a child. The feeling of loss is not all the same.  You cannot explain it.  You cannot teach it.  The only word that can be used to describe loss is “emptiness”.  As a catholic we learn that when we die our bodies are laid to rest but our spirit/ our souls go to Heaven to live with God through all eternity.  Life itself does not end, it merely changes.  The words that I have just used to describe “death”, to me are just words.  We are left behind on this earth to endure the tragedy’s, to continue on,,,,, to live.  We cannot be left to try to understand God’s plan for us, but just know that he is there with us every step of the way.  Tonight we celebrate and learn how God was with our family through the death of Anthony and how he continues to be with us even 4 ½ years after.

In the 11 days after Anthony’s accident we learned that if Anthony ever recovered from his injuries, he would never be the son, the brother that once was. The injuries that he suffered were so severe that he would only be left with a shell….the outside…. With the technology we have today Anthony could have stayed alive on all those machines for a long time.  What kind of a life would that be for Anthony, what type of future would there be for Joseph and for Elissa. We wanted to be able to smile when we spoke about Anthony…we wanted to remember the way that Anthony laughed, they way he loved so dearly.  Although the choice was extremely painful for Joe and I, we knew that it was time for us to let him go.

Less than one percent of all organ donors can actually be considered for organ donation. Anthony fell into that one percent category.  Anthony’s body was as perfect as the day he was born.  All his injuries were sustained in Anthony’s brain.  The decision for Organ Donation was tough for us, but we knew that if Anthony had to make that decision that he would have agreed.  What we didn’t know was that the choice for organ and tissue donation would continue to affect our family even today.  Although we felt this way at the time of Anthony’s death, we learned that we are not alone.  There are thousands of people every day waiting for an organ to be able to continue living, and to continue loving their family.  Some die waiting for that precious gift.  Today we are all able to watch the season’s change, to see the beautiful colors of the trees, their are many that cannot.  They wait, and wait for that perfect match to be able to see again.  Today, so many women are enduring breast cancer. With tissue donation, reconstruction can be made possible…to make their struggle a little bit easier.  When a family is struck by tragedy they are not thinking of saving lives, they are lost in there own struggle….why wouldn’t they be?  At the time Joe and I were not thinking of organ donation, we were only thinking about Anthony.  That changed.

When Joe and I made the decision for organ and tissue donation we did not realize the impact it would have on our family. The decision was made…. and then we moved on to the next decision we had to make.  It was time to lay our oldest son to rest.  Years went by before we thought about trying to contact one of Anthony’s recipients…One of the 5 recipients.  Anthony saved the lives of 5 other people.  Imagine that.  It is still hard to wrap your head around that concept.  Our boy saved someone else’s life….We did hear back from one of Anthony recipients……a boy…..At the time of Anthony’s death our new friend Chase was only 7 months old.  This little boy would have died without a liver transplant…Anthony was a perfect match…If you didn’t know, The liver is the only organ that can be split.  Chase received a small part of Anthony’s liver.  Chase’s body grew around the organ because he was so small.  It saved his life.  How happy do you think those parents were that their baby boy would now be able to grow up??…Maybe play soccer like Anthony did.  How lucky were we to learn that they wanted to meet us??  Words cannot describe the feeling of meeting the person that now has a part of your son living inside him.. He is now 5 years old.  The ride home from Whitestone, NY was a quiet one.  I believe that day we knew that we made the right decision for organ donation.  Anthony may have died, but his Gift of Life lived on in that little boy.

Children grow up in the world today with many Hero’s. Baseball heroes, Football heroes, now there is another Hero.  Joseph and Elissa will grow up not remembering that they lost their brother in a tragic accident and he died Period….. but they will grow up knowing that their brother Anthony saved the lives of 5 other people with his Gift,  two people can now see , and countless lives enhanced….  A real life hero !!

Tonight is about learning what happened after….Tonight is about educating others on Organ and Tissue donation. We continue to learn how Anthony’s gift of life continue to effect the lives of so many others and how you can help in spreading what you have learned tonight.  We hope that you will take with you what you have learned and educate others.  We, are looking forward to the day that we will be blessed to meet the 4 other recipients of Anthony’s gift and will look forward to sharing that with all of you.

Faith Leaders Focus on Life-Affirming Gifts by Jay Arisso, Jr.

For me, connecting my faith to my position here at NJ Sharing Network, as Manager of Family Services, has always made sense. My work is more a mission than a job. Generosity is at the core of my faith. I believe God helps us and is generous to us and we, in turn, must be driven to help others.

As the lead pastor for a non-denominational Christian church in Elizabeth, my faith supports my work. And my work supports my faith.

On National Donor Sabbath, November 14-16, I will join faith leaders in New Jersey and around the nation to focus on the life-affirming gifts of organ and tissue donation. We celebrate Donor Sabbath each year, two weekends before Thanksgiving.

During this time we all share in the conversation and spread the life-saving message. Nearly every religion supports organ donation, and sees donation as a selfless act of compassion and generosity. During Donor Sabbath, many faith-based leaders will organize programs to educate their congregations and share the stories of recipients and donor families — as well as those of people waiting for a life-saving gift.

For many years, I’ve organized National Donor Sabbath events that have brought together Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists and other leaders of faith communities to talk about organ donation. We are able to break down the religious walls and come together to focus on what we all share: a deep regard for the mission to save and enhance lives through organ and tissue donation.

I share with faith based leaders that educating members about organ and tissue donation as a matter of everyday life is important. Education provides the understanding and information necessary in case the opportunity to donate ever arises. Faith leaders should have the knowledge they need if members of their communities reach out for their help and guidance.

We make sure the faith-based leaders who participate in our Donor Sabbath events have the education they need to answer any question. At a recent event that NJ Sharing Network organized with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital — Hamilton, some faith-based leaders asked questions such as: Can a person who is an organ donor have a viewing? They can. Will organ donation interfere with a burial? No, it will not.

We also explained brain death, and we shared stories of how donor families suffering from loss often find solace in their decision to help others. And we talked about how the need for registered donors is paramount.

So often in our world we focus on what makes our faith communities different from one other. A wonderful element of National Donor Sabbath is that people from all major faiths come together to focus on what we all share.

On Donor Sabbath we talk about how we are all connected, and how we are united in the mission to enhance and save lives through organ and tissue donation. On Donor Sabbath, if you are a faith-based leader, please learn more about organ donation and share that information with your members. And if you are a member of a faith-based community, please consider striking up a conversation with your faith leader.

Remember that NJ Sharing Network is always here to help support and encourage that conversation.

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Jay Arisso Jr., BSB, CGRS,
Manager of Family Services at NJ Sharing Network

Jay is Senior Pastor of La Iglesia Church in Elizabeth, NJ and oversees NJ Sharing Network’s Family Services program.

Happy Fall!

Hi everyone,

It has been so long since my last post, but for good reason! I have been so busy with NJ Sharing Network events and celebrations, and I wanted to give you a recap of everything that has happened over the past few months. As you may know, the 5K was a huge success this year: We had over 6,000 participants and raised over $800,000! We could not do it without you… THANK YOU! While fundraising is still open, we are excited to give you important news about next year’s 5K. Stay tuned!IMG_4973

Although summer came and went, we ended it on a positive note with National Minority Donor Awareness Week (August 1 – 7), celebrating and remembering minority organ and tissue donors while highlighting the critical need for people from diverse communities to register as organ and tissue donors. Kicking off the school year and following National Minority Donor Awareness Week, Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) gave us a special time to honor Hispanic organ and tissue donors and recipients across the country. While this awareness initiative will soon come to an end, the precious gift of life given by so many will live on forever.

A little fact about me, the fall is my favorite season! I love pumpkin and apple picking, Halloween festivities, and of course my favorite NJSN event (aside from the 5K of course!) our Annual Golf Classic. It was such a success this year – beautiful weather and good company. Thank you to our sponsors! Check out photos from the day.

My favorite time of year is also home to National Donor Sabbath (November 14 – 16), which marks a special time across the country for clergy and their congregations to unite and help spread the word about the gift of life. For resources and more information about how to get involved in your community, download our resource kit!

Well, I won’t keep you any longer… if you’re anything like me you still don’t know what you want to be for Halloween and need to find the perfect costume! Finding a costume to fit my heart-ish figure is always a task.

Stay healthy and happy this Halloween… here’s how!

1. Fill up on healthy foods before going trick-or-treating – the less hungry you are, the less snacking along the way!

2. Hand out low-sugar treats or toys instead of candy – some children prefer to take a small toy (consider pencils, erasers, stickers, tattoos, glow sticks). After all, the excitement is in collecting the treats, not necessarily in eating them!

3. Exercise while trick-or-treating: Walk from house to house instead of driving – but be careful! Always make sure you are with a buddy before venturing out on your own.

4. Keep only a small bag of your favorite treats, and hide the rest in the freezer so it is out of sight, and out of mind!

5. Purchase Halloween candy the day of trick or treating to avoid temptation. Buy less than what you think you will need to avoid leftovers and purchase candies that are not your favorite.

XOXO TTYL,

Ms. Pumps