HILLSBOROUGH: Recent grad earns $5,000 scholarship for organ and tissue donation awareness efforts

A 19-year-old Hillsborough High School graduate was one of two students in the state to earn a $5,000 scholarship for their efforts to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation.

Zachary Roth recently received the Betsy Niles Scholarship from the NJ Sharing Network for having created the Donate Life Club at HHS.

Named after a children’s book editor and lifelong Montclair resident who donated her organs after she died in 2011, the Betsy Niles Scholarship is awarded to individuals who try to extol the virtues of becoming an organ and tissue donor.

“I’ll never forget the day my brother died and I’ll never forget the day I found a reason to live for him,” Roth said. “Starting the Donate Life Club – and seeing how far it has already grown – tells me that I am doing something concrete to honor my brother’s life and to help others.”

According to the NJ Sharing Network, Roth had to complete training in order to become a certified volunteer through their organization in order to learn how to speak to others about organ and tissue donation.

Once his training was complete, Roth started his role as the president of the Donate Life Club. Through all of the club’s volunteer, fundraising and other activities, his group was able to help raise thousands of dollars for organ and tissue donation awareness.

Along with Paige LeBlanc, of Columbus, who was awarded the Missy’s Miracle Scholarship, NJ Sharing Network President and CEO Joe Roth said this year’s recipients proved what youths can do to help others.

“Saving lives takes on new meaning when young people embrace it, and Zachary and Paige are two amazing examples,” he said. “When Zach starts at Virginia Tech in the fall and Paige attends the University of Tennessee, we know they’ll continue to share the message of organ and tissue donation.”

LeBlanc earned her scholarship after creating a podcast series that featured interviews of families touched by organ and tissue donation. She also made the topic a focus of her Senior Gold Award project. The issue was close to her heart after her brother Zach received three liver transplants by the age of 22.

“I know firsthand that most awareness comes from knowing someone who is either a transplant recipient or a donor,” said LeBlanc. “I’m proud to bring real stories to life for those who otherwise wouldn’t have a connection to organ donation.”

The NJ Sharing Network estimates that approximately three New Jersey residents are added to the transplant waiting list each day, with nearly 100 people dying before they could get a transplant last year.