A Mamaroneck High School student combined her passion for filmmaking with her love for a best friend, the recipient of a life-saving liver transplant, and was honored for the result of her dedication on June 12 at a standing-room-only Manhattan gala for LiveOnNY, – the organization which coordinates organ donation and transplantation in the greater New York area. Louisa Tantillo, a gifted 15-year-old sophomore at Mamaroneck High School, won a $2,500 scholarship for her film “Take It In Stride,” a touching portrayal of her classmate, Penny Lee, and her family’s journey since her transplant at three months old.
“Not only am I telling this story about Penny, but I was telling the story of what so many people have gone through when they receive an organ, which made it so meaningful to me,” said Tantillo, who hopes to attend NYU for filmmaking one day. “I wanted to make the film to show what she goes through every day as a liver recipient. I had no idea, and neither did the kids at our school.”
Larchmont resident Lee, 16, also received a $2,500 scholarship for her part in the film. Friends say she is one of the most popular and easy-going kids at her high school, never complaining about her medical condition, the multiple surgeries and post-op visits she has endured, or her daily regimen of anti-rejection drugs.
Tantillo and Lee are the first student recipients of “Marcy’s Gift” – the Donate 8/LiveOnNY Foundation High School Video Scholarship Award for promoting organ donation awareness among young people in New York. It was also the kick-off of what will become an annual contest for high school students. “Marcy’s Gift” is named for Marcy Salmirs, the volunteer organizer of the event which raised over $1 million last night.
Emily Dombroff, the high school’s video production teacher, also received a $2,500 award on behalf of Mamaroneck High School.
“When I heard about this high school film produced in my own community and saw it with my own eyes, I was moved beyond words,” said Lee Perlman, Chairman of LiveOnNY and a senior executive with the Greater New York Hospital Association. Perlman, along with LiveOnNY CEO Helen Irving, came up with the idea for the video contest and scholarship. “This work will serve as an inspiration for future high school creativity and vision about organ donation.”
The scholarships were presented at the 7th Annual “Donate Eight” Spring Fundraiser held at Gotham Hall. More than 1,200 people attended, considered to be the largest health care fundraiser in the city. Donate Eight is a philanthropic organization composed of leaders in the city’s real estate and building industries. Since 2013 the group has raised more than $6 million for LiveOnNY’s efforts to save lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. Nearly 10,000 New Yorkers statewide are waiting for a heart, kidney, lung, liver. And, while over 5 million New Yorkers have signed up on the state registry, it’s only 35% of eligible New Yorkers, putting New York last in the country.
LiveOnNY is a nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO) dedicated to saving lives, providing comfort, and strengthening legacies through organ, eye, and tissue donation. The OPO, which was established in 1978, serves a culturally and ethnically diverse population of 13 million residents in New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley. Working closely with transplant centers and hospitals, LiveOnNY coordinates organ, eye, and tissue donation for transplant, educates the public and healthcare professionals about donation and transplantation, and promotes the importance of signing up on the New York State Donate Life Registry. LiveOnNY works closely with 11 transplant centers, nearly 100 hospitals, and several tissue and eye banks. LiveOnNY is accredited by the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) and a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which oversees the organ transplant waiting list in the U.S. For more information, visit LiveOnNY.org.