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2018 ESL Jefferson Award winner: Richard Perez

May 18, 2018 05:44 PM

Each year, we ask our viewers to nominate people from our community for their volunteerism. The ESL Jefferson Awards are part of the national Jefferson Award Foundation which strives to build a culture of service in communities across the country. Founded in 1972 by well-known public servants including former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Jefferson Awards are the country’s longest standing and most prestigious honor of its kind.

Richard Perez gets to know almost every transplant patient at Strong Memorial Hospital. 

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"After you get your transplant, you might come back several times for minor things," Richard, a transplant volunteer, says.

Richard understands the journey far better than most because he too is a transplant recipient. He remembers well that day in 2002 when he was told he would need a new liver.  

"I need a liver? What time will that be? I come back later? But it wasn't like that," Richard says. "You know, the first thing that my surgeon mentioned to me was no, you have to go on a list."

It was then that Richard learned that patients wait months for an organ. That very day, Richard began his long career of volunteer service, tirelessly working to register organ donors.  

"I went to the health fairs in the community," Richard says. "I went to every single place that you can imagine. I even set up tables in parks when there was a baseball game.">

Ten months later, he finally got a new liver.

"The minute you wake up, you know, you're no longer sick," Richard says.

It was a second chance -- a new life -- with renewed purpose.

"Because I got involved before my liver so now I'm involved," Richard says. "So my idea was, I gotta do this for a living.>

He talked to his wife Maria about his new-found mission.  

"We sold our house and we moved into an apartment so I could do this," Richard says.

During the time Richard has been volunteering, the number of registered donors in our region has grown from 27-percent to almost 40-percent.

He also launched the volunteer program at Strong Memorial Hospital, counseling hundreds of transplant patients. Mario Cianfichi was one of them.

"That gave me hope that after we did this, I have a new life," Mario says.

Ten months after his transplant, Mario is well and he's now joined Richard as a volunteer at Strong.

Giving back, helping others, and saving lives.

Find out how you can be a volunteer at Strong Memorial Hospital by heading to the Friends of Strong website.

If you would like to learn more about organ donation in our region, click here for more information.

Credits

Deanna Dewberry

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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