PHOTO: Mary DiNardo with her three children Ella, 6, Gwen, 9, and Marc, 8, and Don Zolkiwsky, who received the heart donated by Det. Marc DiNardo.
Widow of Officer Killed in Line of Duty Joins with Recipient of Officer’s Heart to Honor His Legacy and Spread Awareness about Organ and Tissue Donation
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – July 22, 2014 – A solemn ceremony at NJ Sharing Network today honored the legacy of Jersey City Police Det. Marc Anthony DiNardo while raising awareness about the life-saving gifts of organ and tissue donation.
The detective, killed five years ago in the line of duty, became an organ donor and his heart and two kidneys saved the lives of three others. The ceremony marked five years since his donation.
“We are here today to celebrate Marc’s donation of life-saving organs, and to thank Mary DiNardo for being such a strong advocate for organ donation and education. She is a good friend to NJ Sharing Network,” said Joe Roth, President & CEO of NJ Sharing Network.
Mary DiNardo said encouraging others to become organ and tissue donors has become an important mission in her life.
“Today marks the fifth anniversary of the day my husband was killed in the line of duty,” DiNardo said. “That was the day that broke my family. Marc was a husband, a son, a father, a brother and a friend. In the days since his death we have made so many friends who have become our new family. Today should have been Marc’s 42nd birthday, but instead he will be forever 37 years old.”
DiNardo also talked about Legacy of Heroes, a partnership that began as a tribute to her husband and other first responders who continue to save lives, even in death, by becoming organ and tissue donors.
"I speak to first responders and recruitment classes throughout New Jersey to stress the importance of registering to become organ and tissue donors. I share Marc's story because I hope it will inspire others to make the same selfless decision to donate life that he did,” she said
In an emotional presentation, Don Zolkiwsky, a Vietnam veteran from South Plainfield, described receiving the detective’s heart and a second chance at life. He described his time at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and the day he learned a heart was available for him.
“I kept wondering who my donor was. I had no idea how he died. All I was told was that he was a 37-year-old male,” Zolkiwsky said. He described his surgery and recovery and how he began to learn more about his donor. Zolkiwsky believes he would have become fast friends with Marc DiNardo.
“Having someone else’s heart beating in your chest is humbling. Though I never knew Detective DiNardo, I have a sense of his spirit with me every single day,” Zolkiwsky said. “Without his gift I know I would not be here today.”
Zolkiwsky, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, was joined at the ceremony with two others who also received the Purple Heart. They presented the detective’s widow with a challenge coin, which symbolizes camaraderie.
Others from NJ Sharing Network participated in the ceremony, and a plaque was presented to DiNardo that will soon be attached to a bench at Jersey City Medical Center that honors her fallen husband. Detective DiNardo’s organs were donated at Jersey City Medical Center.
DiNardo and her three children also were presented with bright yellow sunflowers.
“Our sunflower campaign signifies how one seed creates a beautiful flower and many more seeds,” explained Jackie Lue Raia, assistant director of Resource Development at NJ Sharing Network. “It is the same with organ and tissue donation, where one person can save the lives of eight people with organs and enhance the lives of 50 to 70 others with bone and tissue. Life continues as we spread awareness and caring.”