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Heart Transplant Patient, 16, Plans Donation Awareness Drive

The first annual Johnny Damato Donation Awareness Drive encourages Bergen County residents to donate blood and sign up with organ and bone marrow registries.

The following announcement was submitted to Patch for publication. It refers to an event previously reported by Patch and provides further details:  

While many 16-year-olds are planning or attending Sweet Sixteens this fall, Fort Lee’s Johnny Damato has other plans in the works. Having received a heart transplant this past June, Johnny is organizing a drive geared to raise awareness of the importance of being an organ, blood and bone marrow donor.

It is a first step toward his ultimate goal of establishing a foundation to aid other families in need.

The first Johnny Damato Donor Awareness Drive for Bergen County will take place on Sunday, October 21st from Noon – 6:00 p.m. at Fort Lee Recreation Center at the bottom of Stillwell Avenue and 10th Street. It will include a blood drive and organ and bone marrow registry. It will also include a fundraising component to offset Johnny’s ongoing medical care.

Says Johnny: “If more people were aware of the need for organ donors and knew how many lives just one donor could save, I know more people would become donors.” 

He points out that one donor can:

  • Donate kidneys to free two people from the dialysis treatments needed to sustain life.
  • Save the lives of patients awaiting heart, liver, lung or pancreas transplants.
  • Give sight to two people through the donation of corneas.
  • Donate bone to help repair injured joints or to help save an arm or leg threatened by cancer or other illness.
  • Help burn victims heal more quickly through donation of skin, and provide healthy heart valves for someone whose life is threatened by malfunctioning or diseased valves.

“One organ donor can give 50 people a second chance at having a normal life again,” Johnny emphasizes. “I am hoping this drive will make a difference for other families waiting for transplants. I do not want any family to go through what my family and friends have been through.”

The event will include a fundraising component. A heart transplant patient Johnny’s age is likely to need two additional transplants during his lifetime. The costs of maintaining the health of a transplant patient are astronomical and ongoing, far exceeding the limits of health insurance.

The first Johnny Damato Donor Awareness Day will include the following components:

  • A blood drive by Community Blood Services. Donors can register in advance online or just show up on the 21st; 
  • The opportunity to register to be a bone marrow match. This will be conducted by the HLA Registry, part of Community Blood Services, and will be for individuals 44 and younger;
  • An organ donation registry conducted by the New Jersey Sharing Network;
  • And for $20 for adults; $10 for children under 10, the opportunity to enjoy food and beverages while making a donation to Johnny Damato’s medical fund.

The day will include musical entertainment, face painting and the chance to win enticing raffle prizes, including valuable restaurant gift cards and stays in Trump Hotel Collection luxury hotels in New York and Chicago. All ticket proceeds will go to Johnny’s medical fund.

Johnny's hope is to hold the event every year, and each year the proceeds will go to a family in medical crisis. Johnny would like to start foundation one day to help and support all families in medical crisis.

Other ways to contribute to the fund include logging onto Hope for Johnny's Heart or by sending a check directly to Johnny Damato and send it to his home c/o his mother, Rita Damato, at 440 Brinkerhoff Avenue, Apt. B., Fort Lee, NJ 07024.

For advance tickets or to make a donation of money, food, beverage or raffle prizes, call Mary Gendron Augustyn at 201.944.3955 or email her at mgendron@mg-pr.com.

Ochocinco October 20, 2012 at 11:46 AM
What a wonderful way to honor this young man and so many others like him. Bravo!

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