There are almost 114,000 people nationwide on a waiting list, and every 10 minutes the list grows longer. However, American Transplant Foundation reports that an average of 20 people die every day from lack of organs available.
To tackle this issue, the NJ Sharing Network brainstormed an idea to use two of the state’s favorite treats — pizza and coffee – to encourage organ donations.
“We don’t want you to just register to be a donor, but we want you to have a conversation with your family. So when you order a pizza box, you’re typically with other people,” said Elisse Glennon, NJ Sharing Network vice president and chief administrative officer.
For all of April, which is also National Donate Life month, the organization handed out pizza boxes and coffee sleeves printed with the organization’s website: savenjlives.com, where people can visit to see how many in their towns are waiting for an organ.
In just a year the drive has grown from 1,000 pizza boxes to 15,000 this year as well as from 60,000 to 250,000 coffee sleeves. All were provided free of charge to participating restaurants and bistros. Out of 150-plus establishments, of which over 30 were pizzerias, Glennon said many of the involved pizzeria owners were personally connected to organ donation.
Patsy’s Tavern and Restaurant in Paterson, New Jersey, is one of many with that personal connection. Pizzeria co-owner Gary Barbarulo said he has been waiting for over a year for a kidney donation. Patsy’s co-owner Steve Barbarulo agreed to participate, saying, “We’re always looking to help people, and this was special because of my brother.”
To emphasize the personal connection, the pizza box at Patsy’s reads: “This pizza can help save a life. There are 155 people in your local area waiting for a life-saving transplant.”
By the second week of April, the restaurant delivered 350 of the Sharing Network boxes. The website now reports there are 95 people in Paterson, where Patsy’s is located, needing an organ transplant.