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Hillsborough High School graduate earns scholarship for her passion of organ and tissue donation

The New Jersey Sharing Network Foundation’s Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund has awarded 2022 Hillsborough High School graduate Sophie Weinberger a scholarship for her passion and dedication to raising awareness of organ and tissue donation.

Weinberger was presented with her scholarship award at NJ Sharing Network’s headquarters in New Providence, Union County, during a ceremony in the Landscape of Life Meditation Garden.

Her connection to organ and tissue donation and transplantation began when she joined Hillsborough High School’s Donate Life Club during her sophomore year. Weinberger was inspired by her family’s personal connection to the club’s mission as her great aunt donated one of her kidneys to save the life of her great uncle. She was also proud to learn that many of her family members are registered as organ and tissue donors, according to a press release through the NJ Sharing Network.

“I knew right away that organ and tissue donation had a major role in my life. I wanted to do my best to advocate and help others realize the importance of NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission,” said Weinberger, who plans to attend the College of Charleston, S.C. in the fall.

Weinberger became co-president of the school’s Donate Life Club and earned certification as a NJ Sharing Network volunteer advocate. She spearheaded the club’s participation in the Sharing Network Foundation’s 5K Celebration of Life events and organized several fundraising activities at Hillsborough restaurants, including Smoothie King, Super Sundaes, Jersey Mikes and Roman Gourmet. Weinberger also took the lead in speaking with Hillsborough High School juniors during their health classes to encourage them to join the Donate Life Club and register as organ and tissue donors when receiving their driver’s licenses, according to the press release.

“Being a member of the Donate Life Club and getting the opportunity to learn about organ and tissue donation has taught me the importance of giving back to your community, along with helping me grow and prepare for college and life,” Weinberger said.

The Sharing Network Foundation’s scholarship program provides an opportunity to recognize and award graduating high school seniors who advocate for and/or whose lives have been touched by organ and tissue donation and transplantation. The Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund was created in memory of Elizabeth “Betsy” Niles, a lifelong Montclair resident who passed away in 2011 after a tragic accident. Niles spent most of her career in educational publishing and was passionate about helping to improve the education system. Her organ and tissue donations touched the lives of over three dozen people, including a life-saving kidney transplant for one recipient, according to the press release.

Dan Sarnowski, of Sparta, Niles’ loving companion, established The Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund in 2014. Sarnowski and Niles’ family decided the best way to honor Niles was through supporting education programs. The Fund has raised over $100,000 to date, through fundraisers and events such as the 5K Celebration of Life Team Betsy’s Dash.

“Betsy was known for always giving the perfect gift for every occasion and her last gift was the greatest gift of all – the gift of life,” said Sarnowski, a former Board member of the Sharing Network Foundation and Betsy’s Dash 5K Team captain. “I feel it is a perfect tribute to Betsy to have a fund and a scholarship program in her honor. Sophie serves as a perfect example of what it means to take an active role in supporting these important outreach efforts.”

Scholarship applicants were measured on academic achievement, community and volunteer efforts, extracurricular activities and advocacy for organ and tissue donation. The application process included a thorough review by a committee of the Sharing Network Foundation Board members, according to the press release.

“We are grateful for the generous support of the Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund and their ongoing commitment to rewarding students who share a commitment to our life-saving mission,” said Amanda Tibok, interim executive director of the Sharing Network Foundation. “We know that Sophie and all of our scholarship recipients will continue as strong leaders educating others about donation and transplantation throughout their college years and beyond.”

According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are over 100,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant. Just one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 people, according to the press release.

For more information visit http://www.NJSharingNetwork.org

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