NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - A recent graduate of New Providence High School who had received a cornea transplant and then became a certified volunteer ambassador for NJ Sharing Network has won the prestigious Benjamin R. Chirls Scholarship provided by NJ Sharing Network, the non-profit organization responsible for the recovery of organs and tissue for nearly 5,000 New Jerseyans awaiting life-saving transplants.
In a ceremony at NJ Sharing Network, the $4,000 scholarship was presented to Brian Mansfield, 18, who next month will begin his freshman year at the University of Richmond to study Business Administration.
Presented annually to an organ, tissue or eye donor, transplant recipient, donor family member or awareness advocate, the Benjamin R. Chirls Scholarship is named in memory of Benjamin Chirls, a kidney recipient and strong advocate for organ, eye and tissue donation. Chirls worked tirelessly for many years, ignoring physical limitations and disabilities to bring the message of donation to individuals throughout New Jersey as a volunteer for NJ Sharing Network.
Mansfield’s scholarship essay focused on the rare eye disease with which he was stricken two years ago, with light sensitivity so strong that he couldn’t even look at his cell phone. Mansfield spent most of his time in a darkened basement. He could not attend school or play sports; his condition required an emergency corneal transplant to save vision in his left eye.
“Through it all, school was always a top priority for me,” Mansfield said. “And despite all these challenges, I finished my junior year on time while receiving straight A’s.”
Mansfield became involved with NJ Sharing Network six months after his transplant, participating in the annual 5K Walk and USATF Certified Race. “I met families that donated the organs and tissue of their loved ones and was inspired by their stories and how much joy it brought them to know that they were helping others and honoring the memories of their loved ones.”
“When I walked with transplant recipients like myself, I also realized that I wasn’t alone and was now bonded with so many people who shared my experience,” Mansfield said.
Charles Kistinger, a kidney recipient, long-time volunteer advocating for organ and tissue donation, and representative of NJ Sharing Network Foundation’s Scholarship Committee, said Mansfield’s ongoing efforts to raise organ, eye and tissue donation awareness, academic success and career focus made him the ideal candidate for the scholarship.
“We were all so impressed with Brian’s advocacy work as well as his grades and commitment,” Kistinger said, noting his strong advocacy mirrors that of Chirls.
“Benjamin would light up the room,” said Joe Roth, president and chief executive officer of NJ Sharing Network. “He was a wonderful person with a big personality. Brian had that same affect when he stood in front of our staff and graciously accepted his scholarship. He is truly an advocate for organ, eye and tissue donation.”
To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org or call NJ Sharing Network at 1-800-742-7365.