Kelsea A. Longo Awarded NJ Sharing Network Foundation’s Benjamin R. Chirls Scholarship
NUTLEY, NJ - July 10, 2012 – A Nutley teen whose life has been repeatedly touched by organ donation – and whose goal is to become a transplant surgeon – has been awarded the Benjamin R. Chirls Scholarship, provided by the NJ Sharing Network Foundation, in cooperation with Donate Life New Jersey and Gift of Life Donor Program, the organization announced today. NJ Sharing Network is the philanthropic arm of 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.
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. Benjamin 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.
Kelsea A. Longo, who just graduated Nutley High School and plans to study biology at Northeastern University in Boston, became connected to NJ Sharing Network after several poignant experiences. Two and a half years ago, Kelsea said, her aunt, Maryann Montano of Lincoln Park, died suddenly at the age of 51 and the family went through the process of organ and tissue donation.
“The representatives of the NJ Sharing Network at the hospital were so compassionate and caring and helpful to us,” Kelsea recalled. “We were able to donate her liver and both kidneys to three other people.”
The young woman's relationship with NJ Sharing Network continued when her uncle, Aldo Mancilla from Jackson, needed a lung transplant because he suffered from pulmonary systemic fibrosis. He received a life- saving double lung transplant a year and a half ago and now leads a healthy life.
And then she lost her best friend in November - Marley May Sirjane of Vermont.
“Her death rocked my world and left a big gap in my heart. Marley was the sister I never had and we were so close. I get some comfort knowing she helped more than 25 people through her donation,” Kelsea said.
After her friend's death, Kelsea became an active volunteer for NJ Sharing Network.
“My hopes are that by sharing my story, I will drive others to sign up to be donors and to begin a ripple effect of people spreading awareness of organ and tissue donation” added Kelsea. “I have been on the donor and recipient side of organ donation and experienced the pain of losing a loved one, and the joy of seeing someone I love get a second chance at life.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Benjamin R. Chirls Scholarship, please contact Sandy Erwin at 908-516-5695.