NEW PROVIDENCE – Donor families and organ recipients marked Flag Day today like never before, gathering at the flagpole in front of NJ Sharing Network in New Providence to raise the American flag and the “Donor Family” flag to honor individuals who gave the “gift of life” to others through organ and tissue donation. The “Donor Family” flag will permanently fly underneath the American flag to honor organ donors daily.
Besides celebrating America and highlighting the importance of organ and tissue donation, the ceremony on June 14 served as the backdrop to announce the formation of NJ Sharing Network’s Donor Family Council. This all-volunteer group will help guide NJ Sharing Network on how best to work with donor families, ensuring a smooth and compassionate process as possible when dealing with an organ donor’s family.
“The unexpected death of a loved one is a tragedy no one can prepare for,” said Jackie Lue Raia, of Mahwah, who co-chairs the donor council. “Being a part of the donor family council helps me make sense of something so senseless.”
“It also gives me an opportunity to help others see something positive come out of a loved one’s passing. Many people don’t have that opportunity when their loved one dies,” added Lue Raia, whose mother, Ena Lue, died in a car accident in 2010. Jackie and her siblings donated their mother’s organs and tissue at the time of her death, giving life to three people who received Ena Lue’s organs and enhancing the lives of 43 people who received her tissue.
Understanding how difficult the loss of a loved one can be, the advisory council will act as a sounding board to best determine how NJ Sharing Network can interact with other donor families.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure donor families are provided the necessary support to help them cope with the tragic loss of a loved one,” said the other co-chair, Alyssa D’Addio, a resident of Watchung who became a donor family member after her father, Joseph D’Addio, died in 2009. “We also want our donor family council to have a say in how NJ Sharing Network involves donor families in other areas, such as public education and fundraising, to ensure it’s done with care and compassion. By doing so, we can better address the unique needs of an organ donor’s family and strengthen our relationship with one of the most powerful voices that advocates for more people to register as an organ donor: the family of someone who gave the precious gift of life to others through organ donation.”
Alive today because of her donor’s final act of kindness, Pam Rector, a kidney recipient from Red Bank, attended the flag raising ceremony in New Providence to share her appreciation with other donor families.
“At times, I don’t know how to put into words what my donor means to me,” said Rector, who received a life-saving kidney transplant two years ago from a 26-year-old Air Force veteran. “He’s a part of me and I talk about him all the time. It’s such an honor to be a recipient. I would not be alive today if it weren’t for my kidney donor.”
Establishing an advisory council for donor families gives its members a unique way to support others who have experienced the tragic loss of a loved one. However, NJ Sharing Network relies on all types of volunteers to help those waiting for a life-saving or life-enhancing transplant. NJ Sharing Network volunteers help educate the public about organ donation and transplantation by participating in community events, speaking at houses of worship and civic organizations, and encouraging local organizations and businesses to help spread the word about the life-saving benefit of organ donation.
To find out more information about becoming a NJ Sharing Network volunteer in your community or how to register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.njsharingnetwork.org or call 1-800-742-7365.
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