National Donate Life Month honored locally

Commemoration promotes awareness

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  • Members of the Sussex Donate Life Group accepting the proclamation from Newton Township.

  • The Sparta Ribbon Hanging Project in Sparta

  • Villa Capri II Save NJ Lives campaign at Villa Capri II in Sparta

By Laurie Gordon

— Imagine helping someone see or breathe again on their own, or helping someone get a new heart so his or her life could go on? Imagine being the reason someone comes back from the brink of death with a liver transplant? These are the gifts of life and it's what the NJ Sharing Network is all about: linking up organ and tissue donors with those badly in need to survive. April is Donate Life Month, and many events around the area have been spreading the message of donation awareness.

National Donate Life Month was instituted by Donate Life America and its partnering organizations in 2003. Celebrated in April each year, National Donate Life Month features an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.

“For Donate Life Month, The NJ Sharing Network launched a Save NJ Lives Campaign,” said Kelly Bonventre, NJ Sharing Network's manager of Philanthropy and Foundation Programs. “#SaveNJLives is an initiative designed to help share the message about organ and tissue donation and transplantation throughout the state of NJ. During the month of April over 135 participating pizzerias, coffee shops, diners, delis and bagel shops across New Jersey will be distributing custom designed pizza boxes and coffee sleeves displaying the number of people in the local area currently waiting for a life-saving transplant. The boxes and sleeves include a call to action to visit, where visitors can learn how many people in their town are waiting for a transplant and ways that they can help.”

For Sussex County, pizza boxes and coffee sleeves were delivered to Cloveberry in Sparta, Newton Pizza, Mama Cee’s in Franklin, Villa Capri II, and Anthony Franco’s in Sparta. Social media posts have been taking place throughout he month promoting this campaign and highlighting participating businesses. Additionally, to promote awareness, green and blue ribbons were hung along Spring Street and at Project Self-Sufficiency, in Newton, and along Main Street, Sparta Ave and Town Center Drive in Sparta.

“Newton and Sparta Township both issued proclamations to NJ Sharing Network declaring April as Donate Life Month,” Bonventre said. “Sparta Township also issued a proclamation to Allison Ognibebe in honor of the 30th anniversary of her double lung heart transplant.”

This Saturday, April 28, the NJ Sharing Network will host a display table at the Sparta Farmer's Market from 10 am to 1 pm to spread awareness about organ and tissue donation.

On June 2, The NJ Sharing Network will again hold one of its biggest annual fundraisers: the NJ Sharing Network 5k in New Providence, NJ. Individuals are invited to sign up to run or walk in the event and when you visit their web site, you'll see many teams that have been formed in honor of an organ donor. Visit for information and registration.

At Sparta High School, a group of students, led by junior Ryan Cilli, recently started a Donate Life Club. Its purpose is to educate students about the importance of organ and tissue donation so they have the ability to make an informed decision on their driver's license. The club will also dispel common myths and misconceptions, as well as encouraging comfortable conversations with parents and peers.

For those who receive life-saving organ and tissue donations, sufficient words of thank you to the families of those who made the donations are hard to find. For those whose deceased loved one made a donation, sometimes any words are a valuable connection to them and their amazing gift of life to another.

You can register to become an organ donor at any Motor Vehicle Agency or when you get or renew your driver's license. You can also register at

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