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.
Kelsea A. Longo, who just graduated from Nutley High School and plans to study biology at Northeastern University in Boston, became connected to NJ Sharing Network after several poignant experiences.
The $4,000 scholarship she earned is provided by the NJ Sharing Network Foundation, in cooperation with Donate Life New Jersey and Gift of Life Donor Program, the organization said.
Two and a half years ago, Longo 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,” Longo said. “We were able to donate her liver and both kidneys to three other people.”
Longo'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, officials said.
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," Longo said. "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."
After her friend's death, Longo became an active volunteer for the 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” said Longo. “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.”
The NJ Sharing Network is 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.
Chirls was 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, officials said.
If you are interested in learning more about the Benjamin R. Chirls Scholarship, contact Sandy Erwin at 908-516-5695.
NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit, federally designated organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for New Jersey residents in need of life-saving transplants. NJ Sharing Network is celebrating 25 years of saving lives through organ and tissue donation in 2012. For information about donation and transplantation in NJ, contact 1-800-742-7365 or at the website.