NEW PROVIDENCE — Last year, we told you about the impact the New Jersey Sharing Network has had, over the last 30 years, procuring organ donations from the Garden State's 14 northernmost counties plus a few other medical facilities in Camden. That effort is continuing with the group's yearly series of 5K run/walks.

After the 2017 kickoff event in Paramus on April 2, NJ Sharing Network's other two races will take place on May 7, in Long Branch, and June 4, in their home base of New Providence. Joe Roth, president and CEO of the organization, said transplants facilitated by the Sharing Network jumped another 16 percent in 2016, following a record 37 percent increase the year prior.

"There are nearly 4,000 people in New Jersey waiting for a transplant, so our job is to try and stop people from dying on the waiting list," he said, reiterating the mission to "identify, consent, recover, and allocate organs from organ donors to help in saving lives through transplantation."

Roth expects some 5,000 people for the Long Branch race and double that in New Providence, where the annual 5Ks launched seven years ago. Participants often assemble teams to honor someone who has either been a donor or a recipient. NJ Sharing Network works closely with families on both sides of the donation process.

"It's so cathartic for these families to come to these events, meet other donor families, other recipients," Roth said. He emphasized that just one donor can provide eight separate transplants: heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, two lungs, and two kidneys.

Livers and kidneys remain the most pressing needs; in fact, kidneys not only are the most frequently transplanted, but also claim the longest waiting list.

Roth said although many may choose not to put themselves on a donor registry, everyone should still discuss with their families the options for donation should they become unable to make that decision down the road. That is all part of NJ Sharing Network's public education initiative: telling people that by being donors, they can save lives.

For more information about the organization and the races, visit njsharingnetwork.org.

Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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