Mike Amato (right) with some of Team Amato at the family tent. Credits: Jackie Grossman
A large banner hung in front of the Share NJ tent, filled with signatures and personal messages. Credits: Jackie Grossman
Participants of various teams line up to register for the 5K. Credits: Jackie Grossman
Bulletins were covered with pictures and stories of friends and family members celebrating survivors and commemorating those who had passed. Credits: Jackie Grossman
Chairman Donna Albanese asks everyone to pick up their cellphones and tell their friends and family to participate in the 5K. Credits: Jackie Grossman
Steven Monteleone, 22, from Berkeley Heights, won first place overall with a time of 16 minutes, 45.36 seconds. Credits: Jackie Grossman
Team 360 cheers as they cross the finish line during the 5K walk. Credits: Jackie Grossman
A Sharing Network volunteer admires the quilts created by donor families and professional quilter volunteers. Credits: Jackie Grossman
The Body Essentials Wellness tent offered free massages to participants. Credits: Jackie Grossman
Share NJ Celebrates Silver Anniversary with its Second Annual 5K Walk/Run
Monday, June 11, 2012 • 6:34am
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Last year, Share NJ had organized its first ever 5K to “to walk and run in honor of those who gave, on behalf of those who have received and with hope for those who continue to wait.” The event was a resounding success—the organization surpassed its fundraising goal—and executive director Elisse Glennon assured the participants that she would see them all again the following year. Staying true to her word, Glennon and the Share NJ team launched its second 5K on Sunday, June 10 in New Providence.
This year, the organization expected to raise $500,000, but with the assistance of various generous sponsors, Share NJ and its approximately 5,000 participants raised a grand total of $560,000, a whopping $110,000 increase from last year.
Preparation for the 5K began early in the morning as the Overlook Hospital, Share NJ, kids' corner, refreshment, sponsor, and other tents set up before most of the teams had made it into the parking lot of Share NJ headquarters.
The Share NJ tent was filled with bright-eyed volunteers ready to educate participnts on the benefits of being an organ donor and sign people up to become donors. The tent also had a huge banner where members of various teams signed their names and wrote heart touching messages.
Across from the Share NJ tent stood tall bulletins covered with pictures and stories of donors and recipients. Some stories celebrated the strength and perseverance of someone who had survived their illness and received a transplant while others lovingly commemorated donors who had passed away. Each story was unique but they all expressed love, hope, and determination while exemplifying the importance of organ donation.
Despite the early start time, excitement buzzed through the air as participants eagerly awaited opening remarks and the race. Teams began setting up shop as early as 7:30; they pitched tents decorated with their names and pictures, opened up chairs, unpacked food and drinks, took team pictures, and began warming up before walking off to explore other tents. As they waited for the race to begin, many could not help but get pumped up by the music coming from the deejay booth and dance to songs like “I Like to Move it.”
New Jersey Sharing Network CEO Joe Roth was impressed with the turnout. He explained excitedly that after only two years, the success of the 5K event overreached what they had expected. NJ Share and events like the 5K mean a lot to him because he feels personally connected. Roth mentioned that his father had passed away from liver cancer during a time when the practice of transplantation was just beginning. He believes that if transplantation had been a more common practice at the time, his father could have been saved. Due to the combination of his father’s death and his involvement in pharmaceutical companies in 1998, Roth began looking for a cause and eventually joined Share NJ.
Before being whisked away to assist with the event, Roth added that he believes the event is so successful because it provides a sense of closure to its participants, regardless of whether they are recipients, donors, or families and friends of each.
Alberta D’Addio said that her husband, Joe D’Addio—who “was a privilege for everyone to know and it was a shame for those who hadn’t met him”—had passed away three years ago but had donated kidneys, bone tissue, and other organs to over 70 people. D’Addio added that her family and many of her friends came together to form their massive team. Both she and her daughter are heavily involved in Share NJ—she is a board member and her daughter is a volunteer—and the entire family attempts to adhere to her husband’s favorite quotes, “you get what you give” every day.
On the other side of the parking lot stood Team Amato. Mike Amato is a donor dad from New Providence whose son, Keith Amato, had been one of the few fatalities during the storm last Halloween. Amato said that Keith had been a healthy runner, (he had run the Marine Corps marathon with his friend and brother, Dan) which is why the family decided to be involved in a running event. He added that being a donor dad is bittersweet and appreciated the fact that out of such tragedy, his wife Doreen made the decision to agree to donate. Amato continues to be in shock but knows that Keith had always been a giver, which is why the motto of the team is “be like Keith.”
At that point, Amato turned around and explained that the different designs on his shirt represented some of the things Keith loved. Some examples were a Peter Parker quote, the number 18, and the New York Giants symbol (Keith was a fan of Marvel comics, loved the Giants, and played hockey wearing a number 18 jersey).
When asked about how he feels living in a place where an entire community comes together to support such a great cause, Amato said that he feels fortunate to live in New Providence. When NJ Share relocated to New Providence, he was on the board and had been very impressed with the organization’s presentations. Now he loves having them as his neighbor.
Fortunately for the participants, there was plenty to do before the race began. Almost all of it had to do with health and fitness. Sponsor tents lined the back of the parking lot and gave out items such as free one-week memberships, vitamins, and chapstick. In front of these tents were representatives of Body Essential Wellness volunteering free massages.
Additionally, a kids' corner with an arts and crafts tent and two moon-bounces was located in one corner of the lot. Blow up kiddie-pools were filled with ice and water-bottles to keep everyone hydrated throughout the hot morning. There was even an energetic heart mascot walking around for photo-ops.
Other tents focused around the theme of love and sharing. For instance, the NJ Sharing Network Quilts made another appearance this year; they covered the back of the NJ Share tent with many of the quilts they had made. The program serves as a memorial with the intention of commemorating those who had donated organs. In each quilt are squares designed by families of lost loved ones sewn together by professional quilter volunteers.
After participants had the opportunity to walk around to the various tents, both Glesson and chairman Donna Albanese thanked everyone for coming. Albanese told the crowd that “everybody here has a story, and I want to hear them all. We are inspired by you.” Glesson told the runners to make their way toward the starting line. Soon, they were off; herds of colors representing the various teams ran, jogged, walked, and everything in between, all as one cohesive force.
First place overall and for the men’s race belonged to Steven Monteleone, a 22 year-old from Berkeley Heights, with a time of 16 minutes, 45.36 seconds. 22 year-old Janel Parker from Freehold ran the top female time, 18 minutes, 45.37 seconds.
After Share NJ announced the total amount of money raised, participants applauded excitedly as a feeling of determination, hope, and satisfaction emanated through the crowd. Even as the day came to a close, it was impossible not to feel the lingering sense of accomplishment that was experienced at the end of a truly inspiring day.
NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit organization dedicating to both educating people about the benefits of donation and transplantation and supporting donors, recipients, and their respective families. If you wish to participate in the cause, you can donate online at: