The Examiner

P’ville’s Gambino Walk/Run Raises Awareness for Organ Donations

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Runners leave the start Saturday morning for Pleasantville’s Tina Gambino 5K Walk/Run.

Michael Bloom was the catalyst behind the inaugural Tina Gambino 5K Walk/Run last year as a way of doing a good deed for his Bar Mitzvah. It’s something he needed to do.

On Saturday, it was all about getting more of the community involved.

“It’s no longer what I have to do, it’s what we need to do,” Bloom, a Pleasantville Middle School eighth-grader, said to the crowd of runners and walkers. “We have to make sure Tina’s memory, Tina’s legacy never dies. For this to happen we have to make this a community event and what’s happening today, that’s community.”

Gambino, who was Bloom’s babysitter, died suddenly in November 2004 at 17 years old.

A strong turnout of more than 250 runners registered for the second annual race Saturday morning that started and finished at Pleasantville High School.

“The turnout today was simply amazing,” said Janice Gambino, Tina’s mother. “The spirit through our event has resonated through the community.”

Proceeds from the walk/run will go to the Tina Gambino Reflections Committee that provides scholarships to graduating Pleasantville seniors.

Bloom, speaking with a confidence beyond his years, said after last year’s inaugural run he was pleased with how the event progressed. With signs and fliers distributed throughout the village, Bloom was set on having widespread participation.

Bloom was there to shake each participant’s hand in congratulations when they reached the finish line. Following the race, runners and walkers enjoyed bagels and fruit. Medals were awarded to the top finishers for men and women in various age groups. The winner was Matthew Baffuto.

A new wrinkle this year was having a table inside the high school for the Transplant Support Organization (TSO), a participant-driven nonprofit that encourages organ donations. When Gambino died, she saved four other lives by having donated her organs.

Janet Ocasio, a TSO volunteer and organ recipient, said with Gambino’s gift of life it made perfect sense to attend the event to answer questions and dispel misconceptions about organ donation. Eighteen people die each day waiting for an organ donor, Ocasio said. She hoped that the event would provide impetus for people to sign up as donors.

Common concerns are that organ donations may be prohibited by a person’s religion or medical staff won’t work as hard on patients in critical condition. Both are false, Ocasio said.

“There’s separate teams that do treatment and it’s not until a person is declared brain dead that the team that does the transplant comes in to evaluate,” she said.

Ultimately, the day was about keeping Tina Gambino in the thoughts of Pleasantville residents. With the help of Bloom’s parents, the Gambino family, volunteers and the village, Bloom is certain Gambino will be remembered.

“This new generation of kids that I’m part of didn’t really know Tina as much as the graduating seniors,” Bloom said. “So we really want to keep her memory alive. She (was) such an amazing person and we want people to know about her and know who she was and what great things she did.”


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