The True Meaning of Family.. From Jenna
When you watch television during the holidays, you normally see a heartwarming story about a family who is facing a tragedy or challenge. In the true sense of the word "family," they come together and face the challenge and beat it. The story is one of those tear jerkers that make you pause and reflect on how fragile life is and how blessed you are. This past week, Franklin Square saw one of those magic moments that you only see from the comfort of your living room on the news.
The scene was the H. Frank Carey Dads Club and the reason quickly brought into focus the meaning of family. A dynamo in volunteering in Franklin Square was in true need. AndrewMonteleone was searching for a kidney. He went through the natural channels of organ donation and was waiting patiently for a matching donor. Throughout his long wait, he continued to participate in school events and volunteer his time.
Now a pause in the story. On Long Island, we had a true champion on the issue of organ donation in former Assemblyman James Conte. Organ donation was an issue that truly hit home for him as he received two donations. His blessing transformed him into a strong advocate for the cause. In fact, Conte would go around Nassau and Suffolk to speak to groups about the issue. His work on organ donation was only rivaled by his advocacy for public education. the fruits of his labor evolved into the organ donation card and driver's license option. The story has a sad ending as Conte died from Cancer.
Now back to our story. Andrew, by his own admission, fought the battle and had highs and lows. Throughout that time, he had the support of his family and that of the Dad's Club. In an emotional speech last week, he thanked people like Yossi Oren who drove him to appointments and the kind words of support and encouragement from his friends at the Dad's Club. But the battle was slowly being lost. The options were closing and the reality of the situation was weighing on the family.
That's when a hero stepped in. That hero was Andrew's own daughter. Her name is Jenna.
Without telling her father, Jenna went and got tested to see if she could donate an organ. As if it was meant to be, the results came back and, yes, Jenna was a match. For many in Franklin Square, Elmont and Floral Park who know Andrew and Jenna, it was no surprise. They are very special people who mean so much to so many. When Andrew was told of the match, and who it was from, it was a moment that the family will never forget.
After a successful operation and recuperation, Andrew is back at the Dad's Club. Jenna is back at school. And all is right in the Monteleone family.
But we have to pause this story and go back to former Assemblyman Jim Conte. As a result of the all the work on organ donation, a special state award was developed for individuals who answer the call in a time of need. The award was developed by Conte and others called the "Gift of Life."
Assemblyman Ed Ra recalled that Conte invited him to present one such honor to an individual some years ago. When Ra heard the story of Jenna, he swung into action and attained the award for her quietly and without fanfare. By the way, it wasn't lost on people in the room that it was the Carey Dad's Club who hosted the event. They are a true definition of family and giving and a perfect place for Ra to present the honor. Ra, by the way, presented the award in a fashion that truly focused everyone in the room to the issue of organ donation and how it impacted their community.
So, in front of a packed Carey High School cafeteria, surrounded by family, friends and community members, Assemblyman Ed Ra presented the award to a surprised and humbled JennaMonteleone. Looking on was her Dad who clearly was filled with pride, but looking on at his personal heroine who saved his life.
The emotion that filled the room was a beacon of hope to the greater community. The moment made everyone pause and think about the selfless act of a young girl, who made a true difference in somebody's life. In this case, it was her Dad. True to form, Assemblyman Ra noted, "I hope Jenna's story will inspire others to learn more and register to be an organ donor."
We couldn't have said it any better.