New Jerseyans Share Some Love on February 14 During National Organ Donor Day

New Providence, NJ – February 14 is all about sharing some love in New Jersey – and not just because it’s Valentine’s Day! NJ Sharing Network and its many healthcare partners and volunteers throughout the state are working together to register as many organ and tissue donors as possible in celebration of National Organ Donor Day. The non-profit, federally designated organ procurement organization has set a goal of amassing at least 214 new donor registrations during National Organ Donor Day (2/14/2021).

“National Organ Donor Day is about taking action and inspiring others to learn more about how they can save lives through organ and tissue donation,” said Joseph S. Roth, president and chief executive officer of NJ Sharing Network. “One organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and restore health to over 75 people. I am confident that everyone’s efforts on National Organ Donor Day will go a long way toward bringing hope to those currently waiting for a transplant.”

Currently, there are 110,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant. In New Jersey, one person dies every three days waiting for an organ transplant.

However, the generosity of those in the Garden State is providing hope for the future. New Jersey’s organ and tissue donor registrations continue to rise thanks to strong community education and outreach efforts as well as simplified ways to register as an organ and tissue donor are also helping to save more lives. It is now easier than ever for New Jerseyans to register in any of the following options:

Online at
Through the iPhone Health App
In person at your local Motor Vehicle Agency

Observed every year on February 14, National Organ Donor Day is dedicated to spreading awareness and education about organ and tissue donation. It is also a day to recognize loved ones who have given the gift of life, have received a transplant, are currently waiting or did not receive an organ in time. National Organ Donor Day was started in 1998 by the Saturn Corporation and its United Auto Workers partner with the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and many non-profit health organizations.


National Organ Donor Day is deeply personal for NJ Sharing Network’s partners, advocates and volunteers who are motivated to save and enhance the lives of those in need. The following are just a few examples of local stories that exemplify love for the gift of life.

Mae and Russell Howard of Monroe Township, NJ

Making life-saving connections has always been a part of our mission at NJ Sharing Network. But NJ Sharing Network played a key role in making a true LOVE connection for Mae and Russell Howard.

“I remember we were randomly matched up to share our personal stories during a community fair at Keyport High School,” said Mae. “I knew right away there was something very special about him, and we became instant friends.”

Mae was inspired to become a volunteer a few years after her successful heart transplant surgery in 2002. She felt blessed and grateful that her health had been fully restored. At that time, she also wanted to teach her children about the importance of giving back and getting involved in our local communities.

Russell’s link to NJ Sharing Network came after his wife Patty passed away. While Russell and his two children were devastated, they found some relief in knowing that Patty’s gifts helped save and enhance the lives of others.

“By volunteering together, we could discuss all sides of donation and transplantation to fully educate others,” said Mae. “We were also able to share some common experiences.”
Mae and Russell’s friendship soon turned into true love. They recently celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary, and their loving family has multiplied with four grandchildren and another one on the way!

Vernell Williams of Paterson, NJ

Vernell has spent his entire life helping others. More than 20 years ago, Vernell co-founded Paterson’s Nifty Lions youth football team that has enabled hundreds of youngsters to blossom by learning discipline and teamwork.

In 2015, it was Vernell who needed support as congestive heart failure and other serious health issues put his life a risk. Thanks to the generosity of an organ and tissue donor, Vernell’s life was saved through successful heart and kidney transplants. Three years later, Vernell had the opportunity to meet the family of his donor, Victor Startek.

“When I met Victor’s mother, Deborah Martinez, and his twin sister, Ashley, I cried,” said Vernell. “I have such love for and willbe forever grateful to the Startek family. Victor literally saved my life.”

Today, Vernell says he feels better than ever. He continues to pour his heart and soul into coaching, and he now serves as an active volunteer to educate residents in our local communities about NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission.

“There are so many people waiting for a transplant, and I hate seeing other people suffering and going through what I went through,” said Vernell. “That’s what drives me each day. It is my goal to raise awareness to help save lives. I always show people around me the inspiring stories in NJ Sharing Network’s Circle of Life magazine. When I get someone to register as an organ donor, that is when I feel like I have scored.”

Mike Strusiak and Lisa Colasurdo of Basking Ridge, NJ

Fifteen years ago, Mike Strusiak was an active and seemingly-healthy father of four daughters. But a diagnosis of renal cancer required the removal of both kidneys and, ultimately, years of dialysis.

In 2007, he was fortunate enough to receive a kidney and pancreas transplant. Since then, he has seen his four daughters graduate college, walked three of them down the aisle, and is enjoying his six grandchildren with a seventh on the way.

But Mike’s story doesn’t end there. He also met and married the love of his life, Lisa Colasurdo, in July 2018. Michael and Lisa chose to honor his donor, Kristen Theresa O’Hara, by exchanging vows in the Landscape of Life Meditation Garden at NJ Sharing Network.

Mike’s “angel,” as he refers to Kristen, was a 19-year-old basketball player at Jackson Memorial High School who passed away in a motor vehicle accident.

Roberto De Jesus Perez of North Bergen, NJ

Roberto of North Bergen was an inspiration to all who knew him. As a student at William Paterson University, his career goal was to work for the United Nations so he could help people from Latin countries.

Tragically, Roberto’s life was cut s

hort when he passed away at the age of 18 as a result of a brain aneurysm. Roberto’s caring spirit lives on and he will always be honored for the five lives he saved through organ donation.
“Roberto was an angel put on this earth for a short period of time, but the impact he created on people who knew him and the lives he saved is eternal,” said Maria Perez, Roberto’s mother. “The bonds I have created with the recipients of Roberto’s organs, family members who have lost someone dear to them and people in need of organs gives me back a piece of my heart that I lost.”

To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit

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