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.

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.


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.


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.