On May 15, thousands of organ and tissue transplant recipients, donor families, living donors and dedicated volunteers participated in NJ Sharing Network's 5K Celebration of Life Walk and USATF Certified Race at the Great Lawn at the Ocean Promenade in Long Branch.
More than 100 family members and friends of the late Andrew Jova of Brick, and the late Jim Clarke, of Brick, formed 5K teams to honor their memory and show their support for NJ Sharing Network's life-saving mission.
"Team Andrew" paid tribute to Andrew Jova, who passed away at the age of 17 in 2008 following a tragic accident.
Andrew was an organ and tissue donor who saved and enhanced the lives of many others.
Andrew's parents, Jen and Paul Jova, led the 5K team and expressed great pride in knowing that Andrew's legacy of caring for others lives on.
"Andrew was a fun boy with a fantastic personality, full of life, energy and love," said Paul Jova, Chair of NJ Sharing Network's Long Branch 5K Celebration of Life.
"His presence is greatly missed. We made the decision to donate his organs after spending a few days in the hospital waiting for things to get better. After we were told he would not survive, we thought of the many people waiting for that phone call that could save their life. Andrew had the power to make that phone call happen for them."
"We know if the choice were his to make, he would have chosen to do the same. Donating his organs has given others the gift of life. He is our hero."
Andrew passed away just before the start of his senior year at Brick Township High School.
He was an active member of Saint Paul's United Methodist Church's youth group and was involved in local mission work. He was also a member of the Junior Firefighter Program in Brick.
The "Law and Order" 5K team paid tribute to Jim Clarke, who passed away at the age of 58 in 2012.
Jim saved and enhanced lives through his organ and tissue donations.
Jim's adult children, Melissa and Tom, led the 5K team and expressed great pride in knowing their father's legacy of caring for others lives on.
"We were all heartbroken when my father passed away," said Melissa.
"But every cloud has a silver lining. My father was able to donate life to others, and we earned the honor and privilege of becoming a donor family - a fact that has comforted us these last ten years."
The 5K team name, "Law and Order," was chosen because Melissa is a lawyer and Tom is a police officer.
In addition, Jim was a huge fan of the popular television show with the same name.
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.
One organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 others.
To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.
The 5K Celebration of Life, which was sponsored by Hackensack Meridian Health, is the largest fundraising event to support organ and tissue donation and transplantation in the United States.
Thus far, $924,000 has been raised for this year's campaign. Another 5K Celebration of Life Walk and USATF Certified Race will be held on Sunday, June 5, in New Providence.
To participate in the upcoming 5K Celebration of Life or contribute to a team, sign up at www.SharingNetworkFoundation.org/5K.