Students Organize Fundraiser for Organ Donation Charity ‘NJ Sharing Network’

Under the guidance of communication lecturer Shannon Hokanson, University students have organized several service learning projects, one of which involves a fundraiser at the popular Stingers Burger Bar to benefit the NJ Sharing Network.

Occurring from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 14 at Stingers Burger Bar in Long Branch, the fundraiser promises to draw in both Monmouth students and casual bar-goers alike.

“There’s a lot of scholarly literature that indicates that service learning helps students grasp concepts and theories, as well as assists them by letting them put these theories into practice,” said Hokanson, who helped organize this and several other events with her CO/SO-320, small group communication class. “It also connects students with the community; it’s great because it encourages them to become citizens of the world through civic participation.”

Her goal, as the latest professor to teach the class, was to allow the concepts taught in the course to come to life so that students could better understand them. So far it has been a success. “This is the first time I’ve taught the course, and I’m excited by how the students are doing,” she said. “They’ve surpassed my expectations.”

Part of the reason why the students have been able to effectively coordinate the events has been due to the connections they’ve all made. Kate Latkovich, a senior music industry student, was the one responsible for coming up with the concept. It would have been impossible, she said, without her ties to Stingers’ DJ and promoter, Brandon Alex.

“I go to Stingers every week with my boyfriend, and since we tended to arrive early we would often chat with [Brandon]. In January, I started a blog about bars in New Jersey called “NJ Bar Hop”, and he was instrumental in helping to support and promote it,” she said. “When the opportunity for a fundraiser started, Stingers was the first place I thought of.”

Along with a group of four other classmates, Latkovich worked throughout the semester to bring the idea to life. One of her fellow group members was Joe DiSanto, a senior business student who was responsible for involving the New Jersey Sharing Network in their project. They are a non-profit charity dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation. DiSanto has had a long history with them, partly because he himself was once in need of a heart transplant.

“I developed an enlarged heart at 11-years-old,” DiSanto explained. “I started taking medication, but 10 months after I was diagnosed I went into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, I had been in the hospital when it happened, and they were able to save me through 40 minutes of chest compressions.” That is longer than typically needed, and so doctors were forced to be extra careful. As soon as he was strong enough he was transported to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, where after spending three months on a heart machine he was able to obtain a transplant. On July 8, 2006 he was granted a second chance at life; after months of physical therapy he started volunteering with the New Jersey Sharing Network.

“It’s been great,” he said. “The people there are incredible, the staff is great, and it feels good to give back to an organization that helped me and my family when we needed it.” According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, as of now over 121,000 people in the United States are waiting for a lifesaving transplant. Twenty-two of these die each day, and one more person in need is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. Faced with such numbers, it is not surprising that many people have chosen to become organ donors. Although no event can possibly hope to solve the problem, any one person who is influenced by this event and chooses to be an organ donor or lends money to the cause can make all the difference. Considering the amount of people who go to Stingers on Thursdays (when the bar turns into one of Monmouth County’s hottest nightspots), it is very likely that many will donate.

The fundraiser at Stingers is only one fundraiser being conducted by Hokanson’s class. Other groups are working with the JR Smith Youth Foundation, Make-A-Wish New Jersey, and the Monmouth County SPCA. Hokanson herself is elated by the success, noting that not only will these groups receive help, but students will gain much needed experience.

“This isn’t charity, as not only does the community benefit, but the students learn much as well. Everybody wins.”

In depth info on the Stingers event can also be found on when it becomes available.