Alyson Cangemi, a senior attending Ridgewood High School in Ridgewood, NJ, undertook the cause of donor awareness in the summer of 1997, following the deaths of two local students in automobile accidents. While the community was grieving, Alyson tried to make sense of the tragedies and began thinking of a way to make a difference in Ridgewood. She was aware of the importance of organ and tissue donation; including the fact that one donor has the potential to save the lives of seven people and decided that making her community aware of donation and transplantation was how she could make a difference.
Alyson embarked on her campaign to raise awareness in partnership with The New Jersey Organ and Tissue Sharing Network (The Sharing Network), the federally certified organ procurement organization responsible for recovering organs and tissue in New Jersey. There is a profound need for donated organs and tissues throughout the country. According to the Sharing Network, as of today, there are some 50,000-plus Americans awaiting life-saving transplants and, on average, just 20,000 transplants are performed each year.
Alyson organized nine of her friends and together the students went door-to-door in Ridgewood and contacted some 24,000 residents with donor education materials. In total, the students collected more than 7,000 donor cards and 11,000 pledges from residents to discuss this issue with their families.
Alyson continues to work to promote donor awareness and, through her efforts, the Ridgewood program has been duplicated by students from two other New Jersey communities. In addition, Alyson has continued to work with her high school and has arranged for a heart recipient to become a regular guest speaker at the school. She has also reached out to the parents of a donor in a neighboring town and has worked collaboratively with them to promote awareness activities in their communities.
“When our daughter, Amy Federici, was murdered and we became on organ donor family, we could not have known the far-reaching healing impact that decision would have on our lives,” remarked Arlene Locicero, Donor Mother. “In the ensuing years, we have been privileged to meet and know other donor families…and a young woman named Alyson Cangemi. She is, in fact, a dedicated, sensitive young woman who understands the need to proclaim the message of the ‘gift of life’ to those in her school, her community and other communities. She has provided a lasting memory for us all.”