The Sharing Network Foundation’s Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund has awarded a scholarship to Victoria Marotta of Fair Lawn for her passion and dedication to raising awareness of organ and tissue donation.
Marotta was presented with her scholarship award at NJ Sharing Network’s headquarters in New Providence during a ceremony with her family members in the Landscape of Life Meditation Garden.
Marotta, a 2022 Fair Lawn High School graduate, plans to attend James Madison University in the Fall.
Her connection to organ and tissue donation and transplantation began early in her childhood when she first learned that her aunt, Gianna Caruso, is a living organ donor.
Caruso donated one of her kidneys to help save the life of her own father.
“I remember just being fascinated, yet not quite sure how you can transplant an organ from one person to another to help save their life,” Marotta said.
Marotta soon joined her aunt during events and activities to raise awareness and funds for NJ Sharing Network and the National Kidney Foundation.
“Although I did not fully understand the impact at the time, it felt good to know I was helping in some way,” Marotta said.
“As I grew older, I became much more interested and asked a lot of questions. My aunt would go to events, educate people, and raise awareness about organ and tissue donation. She taught me so much, not just about donation, but the importance of advocating for a cause.”
Marotta began leading her own outreach efforts shortly after she entered high school.
As a freshman, she met with school administrators and faculty members to discuss having her aunt do a presentation for students to learn about the importance of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
Marotta’s efforts were successful, and Caruso helped educate more than 750 students during Marotta’s years at Fair Lawn High School.
“My aunt incorporated me into her presentation, and I encouraged my peers to go home and talk to their parents about organ donation,” Marotta said.
“I finally found my way to be an advocate and continued to carry out the message of the program long after my aunt left the school.”
Marotta established a school program entitled “30 in 30: Conversations in Organ and Tissue Donation.”
The program’s goal was to get 30 students in 30 days to go home and have talks with their family members about organ and tissue donation.
“I am so proud to say I accomplished my goal, and many students who were over 18 said they registered as donors,” Marotta said.
The Sharing Network Foundation’s scholarship program provides an opportunity to recognize and award graduating high school seniors who advocate for and/or whose lives have been touched by organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
The Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund was created in memory of Elizabeth “Betsy” Niles, a lifelong Montclair resident who passed away in 2011 after a tragic accident.
Niles spent most of her career in educational publishing and was passionate about helping to improve the education system.
Her organ and tissue donations touched the lives of over three dozen people, including a life-saving kidney transplant for one recipient.
Dan Sarnowski of Sparta, Niles’ loving companion, established The Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund in 2014.
Sarnowski and Niles’ family decided the best way to honor Betsy was through supporting education programs.
The Fund has raised over $100,000 to date through fundraisers and events such as the 5K Celebration of Life Team Betsy’s Dash.
“Betsy was known for always giving the perfect gift for every occasion and her last gift was the greatest gift of all - the gift of life,” Sarnowski, a former Board member of the Sharing Network Foundation and Betsy’s Dash 5K Team Captain, said.
“I feel it is a perfect tribute to Betsy to have a fund and a scholarship program in her honor. Victoria serves as a perfect example of what it means to take an active role in supporting these important outreach efforts.”
Scholarship applicants were measured on academic achievement, community and volunteer efforts, extracurricular activities and advocacy for organ and tissue donation.
The application process included a thorough review by a committee of the Sharing Network Foundation Board members.
“We are grateful for the generous support of the Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund and their ongoing commitment to rewarding students who share a commitment to our life-saving mission,” Amanda Tibok, Interim Executive Director, Sharing Network Foundation, said.
“We know that Victoria and all of our scholarship recipients will continue as strong leaders educating others about donation and transplantation throughout their college years and beyond.”
According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are over 100,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant.
Just one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 people.
To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.
Photo Courtesy of NJ Sharing Network