Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Race Honors the Lives of Organ Donors

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Race Honors the Lives of Organ Donors

Article excerpt

PARAMUS -- When Roy Praschil, 61, and Bryan Mueller, 28, first saw the Walker family at an event for the New Jersey Sharing Network Foundation five years ago, they were reluctant to walk up and thank them for the gift they had received.

For the two men, speaking to the family whose loss provided them with a second chance at life was nerve-racking and "hard to put into words." Praschil had received a heart and Mueller a kidney from Robert Walker, 22, who died in a car accident in 2005.

But on Sunday, none of those nerves were evident. In fact they seemed like a distant memory. Praschil, who lives in the Hewitt section of West Milford, and Mueller, who grew up in Montvale, stood next to the Walkers. The smiled and hugged one another as part of "Team 360" at the New Jersey Sharing Network's Celebration of Life 5K in Bergen County.

The two men said it was important for them to celebrate and honor Walker's life by raising awareness every year through the organization's 5K. And Walker's sister, Kelly, said seeing Praschil and Mueller every year has helped her family cope after her brother's death.

"It's so comforting to know that someone else has life and both of them are here," she said. "Both of them are here with their families. When I'm missing Robert, it's so comforting to know that these two are here today because of him."

There were 80 other teams with similar stories running in the event Sunday at Bergen Community College in Paramus. Dozens of tents sprawled across the campus, each representing the teams and more than 2,000 people who walked, jogged and even sprinted to honor those who lost their lives before donating organs, to celebrate the second chances at life for organ recipients and most of all to raise awareness of the need for organ donations.

Before the race began, Bergen County Executive James Tedesco and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno spoke to those in attendance about the importance of organ donations and urged them to treat every day as a gift. …

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