The Sharing Network Foundation's Hearts for Emma Partner Fund has awarded a scholarship to Sam Prince of North Caldwell for his passion and dedication to raising awareness of organ and tissue donation.
Prince was presented with his scholarship award at NJ Sharing Network's headquarters in New Providence during a ceremony with his family members in the Landscape of Life Meditation Garden.
Prince, a 2022 graduate of West Essex High School, plans to attend Rowan University in the Fall.
Prince was born with multiple congenital heart defects, which kept him from engaging in the typical joys of childhood, such as going to school, riding a bike and running through the playground.
For the first seven years of his life, Prince thrived as best as he could, undergoing numerous surgeries and surviving on medication until the time came when he desperately needed a new heart and was placed on the transplant waiting list.
Finally, he received a life-saving heart transplant when he was 8 years old.
"My life has been filled with struggles, but I am most grateful for it," said Prince.
"One family made the selfless decision to donate their child's organs, allowing me to live. I received the greatest gift I will ever get, the gift of life. For that reason, I have dedicated my life to becoming an advocate for spreading organ and tissue donation awareness."
For the past ten years, Prince has become a powerful and well-recognized advocate for NJ Sharing Network. His efforts began when he started a lemonade stand to raise money for the Sharing Network Foundation and children with congenital heart defects.
With the support of his classmates, "Sam's Lemonade Stand" grew to become an annual event at his school during National Donate Life Month.
Since then, Prince has continually expanded his outreach efforts to new heights, regularly addressing crowds of up to 800 people.
He has shared his transplant journey on local and national television and radio, moderated youth and religious panel discussions, brought organ donation programs to schools and his synagogue, served as the youth spokesperson for the Transplant Games of America, and has been a rider on the Donate Life float at the Rose Parade.
His fundraising efforts have also raised more than $100,000 for the Sharing Network Foundation.
Earlier this year, Prince became internationally recognized as the New York Giants superfan who stole the show during the 2022 NFL Draft.
Thanks to Make-A-Wish America, Prince joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on stage in Las Vegas while presenting the Giants' No. 5 overall pick, Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Prince won over fans worldwide with his animated personality and now viral interaction with Thibodeaux.
"My journey has allowed me to learn the true meaning of life, family, friends, and giving back," said Prince.
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 Hearts for Emma Partner Fund, a program of the Sharing Network Foundation, was created in recognition of Emma Rothman of Cranford's successful heart transplant.
It supports the production and distribution of educational materials and programs to help promote the importance of organ and tissue donation.
The Fund has raised nearly $80,000 since its inception and has helped educate more than 100,000 students about donation and transplantation through NJ Sharing Network's high school outreach program.
Last year, Rothman celebrated the 10th anniversary of her life-saving heart transplant and graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Food Studies.
Rothman remains humble and always thankful for her donor, who gave her the gift of life and made her achievements possible.
"Hearts for Emma is focused on educating present and future generations to ensure everyone understands the importance of organ and tissue donation and transplantation," said Nancie Rothman, Emma's mother and Founder and President of Hearts for Emma.
"Sam 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 Nancie Rothman and JoAnne McGovern, Recording Secretary of Hearts for Emma, as well as members of the Hearts for Emma scholarship committee and the Sharing Network Foundation's Board of Trustees.
"We are grateful for the generous support of the Hearts for Emma Partner Fund and their ongoing commitment to rewarding students who share a commitment to our life-saving mission," said Amanda Tibok, Interim Executive Director, Sharing Network Foundation.
"We know that Sam and all of our scholarship recipients will continue to be strong leaders in 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