Lenny Hart’s American Legion Mission for Children’s Organ Transplant Funds

By Maria Scandale | Jul 05, 2019

Little Egg Harbor — A story in the national The American Legion online magazine brings a Mystic Island man’s mission to full light in the 10th year of his work to raise money helping kids who need costly organ transplants.

“Lenny Hart, a U.S. Army combat infantry veteran of the Vietnam War, chokes back tears as he begins to explain how and why his American Legion mission over the last decade has been to raise money for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA),” wrote interviewer Jeff Stoffer.

“’My daughter passed away in a car accident in 1995, and we donated her organs,’ he says from a table next to the COTA display at the American Legion Department of New Jersey Convention Thursday in Wildwood., N.J ‘That’s when I took the bull by the horns.’”

Hart is the New Jersey state representative for Children’s Organ Transplant Associations. A past commander of American Legion Post 493 in Mystic Island, he organized an annual October fundraiser that has raised  $400,000 since 2009. Already this year, the $86,000 that has been collected is approaching double of last year’s final October amount. It could be a record-breaker.

How did the appeal reach out so far already? “I really don’t know,” he began in his update with The SandPaper/The Leader this week. “I can’t figure that one out.”

More and more people are hearing about it, seeing on Facebook. Hart let the other legion posts throughout the state know, and some into Pennsylvania. Pitching in to collect are also the Sons of The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and the Legion Riders. Donations are collected all year, and they come together to be totaled at the October fundraiser.

One hundred percent of each contribution made to COTA in honor of the patients helps meet transplant-related expenses, which can be staggering.

COTA helps bridge the financial gap between families’ abilities to pay and the huge cost of transplants. A transplant procedure costs range from $100,000 to more than $800,000. Once the transplant is complete, families face significant transplant-related expenses, including medication, transportation to and from the center, and lodging and expenses while parents are out of work and often living with the hospitalized child far from home. These out-of-pocket expenses add up to tens of thousands of dollars annually for transplant families, with lifetime totals often exceeding $1 million, says COTA on its website. Gifts to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

The faces of the children on the national website cota.org bring up the emotion of how good it feels to work for this cause.

“It’s a feeling that everybody needs to feel,” Hart described. “You get so excited that you can help these kids out for another chance in life.”

Some of the families of children who have received or await organ transplants will be at the Oct. 13 fundraiser at the legion post on Radio Road. The party-like event features an antique car show, bands, an auction, a bake sale and more amid a Disney theme.

For those interested in donating, checks can be made out to: American Legion Post 493, 420 Radio Rd., Little Egg Harbor, N.J. 08087, attn: Lenny Hart.

— Maria Scandale


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