(NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ) - NJ Sharing Network, the non-profit organization responsible for the recovery of donated organs and tissue in the Garden State, recently presented Volunteer Recognition Awards to five residents for their outstanding efforts in supporting its life-saving mission. The awards were presented during NJ Sharing Network’s 2023 Volunteer Appreciation Reception at its headquarters in New Providence.
Pictured here (l-r) are Tom Gano of Cherry Hill, with the Jim Rhatican Legacy Award; Divakaran Manimaran of Piscataway with a Youth Volunteer of the Year Award; Anika Bhatnagar of Edison with a Youth Volunteer of the Year Award; Delia Perretta of Wykoff with the Innovator Award; and Dawn Burke of Keyport, with the Community Volunteer Award. (PHOTO CREDIT – Courtesy of NJ Sharing Network)
“Our volunteers play a critical role in our life-saving mission by strengthening our public education efforts and enabling us to better serve patients and their families,” said Alyssa D’Addio, Vice President, Hospital and Community Services. “Tom, Dawn, Divakaran, Anika, and Delia share a passion for helping others and their efforts provide hope for those waiting for a life-saving transplant.”
Jim Rhatican Legacy Award (presented to Tom Gano of Cherry Hill)
In 2022, the NJ Sharing Network family was saddened by the passing of longtime volunteer Jim Rhatican, a liver transplant recipient who shared his personal story of hope with thousands of students, teachers, and parents as part of NJ Sharing Network’s High School Heroes Program. The Jim Rhatican Legacy Award recognizes a volunteer who has made a powerful commitment to educating students about the importance of joining the National Donate Life Registry.
For more than 30 years, Tom Gano has been presenting at high schools throughout New Jersey to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation. According to Tom’s records, he has reached more than 300,000 students. Tom and his wife, Vivian, became NJ Sharing Network volunteers to channel their grief after their son Curtis, 16, died from injuries sustained while riding his bike in 1987. Curtis saved and enhanced the lives of others as an organ and tissue donor.
Youth Volunteers of the Year (presented to Divakaran Manimaran of Piscataway and Anika Bhatnagar of Edison)
Youth volunteers add energy and creative ideas to many of NJ Sharing Network’s outreach projects and activities. The Youth Volunteers of the Year Awards are presented to local high school students who raise awareness about organ and tissue donation in their schools and local communities.
Divakaran Manimaran is the Founder and President of the Piscataway High School (PHS) Donate Life Club, which works to educate students and local communities about organ and tissue donation, plan volunteer events to support NJ Sharing Network, and inspire members to register as organ and tissue donors.
Anika Bhatnagar has a powerful connection to NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission. It began when her mother, Sarika, donated one of her kidneys to save the life of Anika’s father, Vinay. Anika’s strong connection to donation led her to establish a Donate Life Club at the Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences.
Innovator Award (presented to Delia Perretta of Wykoff)
The Innovator Award recognizes an advocate who thinks ‘outside of the box’ to create new and unique ways to share organ and tissue donation awareness and drive individuals to join the National Donate Life Registry.
Delia Perretta was inspired to support NJ Sharing Network after her cousin received three life-saving transplants. To complete her Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey Gold Award, Delia created a website (www.everyorgancounts.org) and TikTok videos to dispel myths and misconceptions about organ and tissue donation. She also designed, printed, and distributed nearly 600 myth-busting brochures to driving schools across New Jersey.
Community Volunteer Award (presented to Dawn Burke of Keyport)
The Community Volunteer Award is presented to an individual who has gone above and beyond to develop and implement creative ways to highlight NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission.
Dawn Burke’s life was saved in 2019 thanks to a successful lung transplant. Since then, she has made it her personal mission to give back by raising awareness about the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor. She has also done speaking presentations and news media appearances to spread the word about the gift she received in hope of inspiring and encouraging others on the transplant waiting list. Throughout the year and especially in April during National Donate Life Month, Dawn personally delivered NJ Sharing Network posters, flyers and table tents to dozens of local businesses and restaurants in and around Keyport.
About NJ Sharing Network
NJ Sharing Network is the federally designated non-profit organization responsible for the recovery of donated organs and tissue in the Garden State. NJ Sharing Network provides hope for nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents currently waiting for a life-saving transplant, and it is part of the national recovery system for the over 100,000 people on the national waiting list. The generosity of New Jerseyans is providing hope for the future. In 2022, the number of organ donors and organs transplanted in a single year reached all-time highs. This marked the fourth consecutive year NJ Sharing Network has reported new records in the number of organ donors, underscoring the clear trend of increased support for organ donation. With headquarters in New Providence, NJ, the organization has been recognized by NJBIZ as one of the state’s “Best Places to Work” for six consecutive years. To learn more, get involved, and join the National Donate Life Registry as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.