WALL TOWNSHIP — The Sharing Network Foundation, a nonprofit organ-procurement organization, has awarded scholarships to Wall High School 2022 graduates Kiley and Kimberly Hubbard and Angelina Gabuzda for their work to raise awareness of organ and tissue donation.
Twin sisters Kiley and Kimberly Hubbard were chosen for their efforts while working with the Wall High School Donate Life Club and
as volunteer advocates for NJ Sharing Network.
The Hubbard family’s connection to organ and tissue donation and transplantation began shortly after Kiley was born with renal failure. Kiley was kept alive for the first five years of her life thanks to dialysis treatments three days per week.
Then on March 30, 2010, Kiley’s Wall Primary School speech therapist, Donna Kuchinski, donated one of her kidneys to Kiley. A successful transplant saved Kiley and gave her a second chance at life.
“On March 30, 2010, I received a kidney transplant which improved my life heavily and ultimately gave me a second chance at life. Before this transplant, I was on dialysis three days a week and was unable to attend much kindergarten and was tired from the treatment most of the week,” said Kiley.
She added, “My kidney transplant allowed me to get off dialysis, have a more normal childhood, and improve my life significantly. When I entered high school and saw that there was a Donate Life Club, I instantly knew that I could impact and change the lives of those waiting to receive a life-saving organ or tissue transplant and allow them to receive their second chance at life. In the future, I plan to continue my efforts and to bring awareness to the NJ Sharing Network and the need and importance of organ and tissue donors, hopefully being able to help even more people along the way.”
Kiley’s story further in- spired her sister to get in- volved advocating for organ donations through the Donate Life Club at Wall High School.
“Being that my sister received a kidney transplant at such a young age, organ do- nation has always been prevalent in my life. Watching not only her, but the other people going through similar situations as her inspired me to help out the community. By joining the Donate Life Club at my school, it gave me the opportunity to directly help my community, all while still in high school. I plan to help out directly with the sharing network in hopes to expand the impact I make beyond just my high school, and hopefully reach the entire state,” said Kimberly Hubbard.
Throughout their high school education, Kiley and Kimberly both served as powerful inspirational speakers when presenting to classmates about the gift of life. Kiley plans to attend Monmouth University to study graphic and interactive design, and Kimberly plans to attend the University of Maryland for a degree in mathematics in the fall.
In 2016, Angelina Gabuzda was in middle school when she began learning about the importance of organ and tissue donation after Wall High School student Luke Bautista died at 15 years old in May 2016 from a traumatic head injury at home.
Luke’s donated heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, and tissue saved the lives of five people and enhanced the lives of many others. Angelina’s brother Colin, who was in high school at the time, founded the Wall High School’s Donate Life Club in honor of his good friend Luke’s powerful story.
Angelina joined the club as vice president when she was a freshman. When it was Angelina’s turn to take the reins as president, she expanded schoolwide activities, including decorating the hallways with green ribbons during Donate Life Month and appearing on the school’s “Crimson TV” morning show with a “thought for the day” or “wise words of wisdom” about the importance of organ and tissue donation.
Angelina also led the club with various hands-on activities, including spearheading the design of a Donate Life Meditation Garden in the school’s courtyard. Angelina plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design in the fall.
For Chris Bautista, father of Luke and chairman of the NJ Sharing Network Foundation, the garden represents a lasting memory of his son’s story, one that he hopes will inspire generations of Wall students to get involved in organ and tissue donations.
“They got really involved over the years at the high school Luke went to, and it’s amazing what they were able to do as seniors by donating a garden in Luke’s name in conjunction with the gardening club. They did it as the senior project for the school, so it’s not just bringing awareness to their class-mates but for generations to come. Hopefully, they ask about the garden and become more aware of what the benefits are when people decide to donate organs and tissue,” said Mr. Bautista.
Kiley and Kimberly’s scholarships were made possible thanks to the Sharing Net- work Foundation’s Missy’s Miracle Scholarship Fund, which was created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Melissa “Missy” Rodriguez’s life-saving liver transplant.
A resident of Short Hills, Ms. Rodriguez was 10 years old when she received a successful liver transplant to save her life. Now, more than 30 years later, Ms. Rodriguez continues to lead an active, fulfilling life as an accomplished athlete, a successful student earning two graduate degrees and the mother of three healthy boys.
Established in 2015, Missy’s Miracle Scholarship Fund has raised more than $75,000 to- ward scholarships for high school students and addition- al programs supporting organ and tissue donation awareness.
“I am proud to join forces with NJ Sharing Network to help educate our local communities about the power of organ and tissue donation,” said Ms. Rodriguez. “Kiley and Kimberly serve as perfect examples of what it means to take an active role in supporting these important outreach efforts.”
Angelina’s scholarship was made possible thanks to the Sharing Network Foundation’s Betsy Niles Scholar- ship Fund, which was created in memory of Elizabeth “Betsy” Niles, a lifelong Montclair resident who died in 2011 after an accident.
Ms. 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.
Dan Sarnowski of Sparta, Ms. Niles’ companion, established The Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund in 2014. Mr. Sarnowski and Ms. Niles’ family decided the best way to hon- or Ms. Niles was through supporting education pro- grams. The fund has raised over $100,000 through fund- raisers and events such as the 5K Celebration of Life Team Betsy’s Dash.
“Betsy was known for al- ways giving the perfect gift for every occasion and her last gift was the greatest gift of all – the gift of life,” said Mr. 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. We are proud to recognize Angelina for her out- standing efforts in educating others.”
Scholarship applicants were measured on academic achievement, community and volunteer efforts, extracurricular activities and advocacy for organ and tissue donation.
Applications were re- viewed by fund principals and the Sharing Network Foundation’s Scholarship Committee of select board members.
“We are grateful for the generous support of our partner funds and their ongoing commitment to rewarding students who share a commitment to our life-saving mission,” said Amanda Tibok, interim executive director of the foundation. “We know that all of our scholarship recipients will continue as strong leaders educating others about donation and trans- plantation 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. To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tis- sue donor, visit www.NJShar- ingNetwork.org.