It has been five short months since the sudden passing of Riley Kogen, a five-year-old Livingston girl loved by many. From the outpouring of grief among hundreds of family and friends, a charity has arisen to help people in need of donated organs.
When Riley died a week after her birthday on December 19, 2013, her donated kidneys saved the lives of two women. Her parents, Ali and Mitch Kogen, immediately launched the family fund, known as “Riley’s Dance,” to help others who need the generous gift of life-saving organs.
“We’ve been amazed by how much support we have received for Riley’s Dance in such a short amount of time,” said Riley’s mother, Ali, born and raised in Livingston. “We’ve already raised about $100,000 through the generosity of so many from our community who want to help in any way they can.”
Riley’s Dance is the first family fund of its kind under the NJ Sharing Network Foundation, the philanthropic arm of NJ Sharing Network. In coordination with Saint Barnabas Medical Center’s Transplant Program in Livingston, Riley’s Dance will help people who are receiving a transplant. Kogen said “crisis money” will provide a helping hand, such as paying for a month of rent or the cost of an airplane ticket for a loved one.
Supporters will be at NJ Sharing Network on June 8, as a team running in the fourth-annual 5K Walk and USATF-Certified Race in New Providence. Kogen said volunteers were handing out flyers for the upcoming 5K race at an April fundraiser called “Shop for Riley,” with more than 700 attendees and 30 vendors at Powerhouse Studios in East Hanover. Speakers included Elisse Glennon, executive director of the NJ Sharing Network Foundation.
“We are coming off such an incredible fundraiser, but now we need to focus on building the biggest team possible for the 5K,” said Kogen, noting she will be relying on members of her synagogue, Temple B’Nai Abraham in Livingston, as runners and supporters. Another supporter is Riley’s three year-old brother, Connor.
Riley’s Dance has had other successful fundraisers this year, including “Barry’s Boot Camp” in Manhattan and “Ride for Riley,” a spin class at SoulCycle in Short Hills, both in March. Kogen said the hope is to spread the effort statewide, helping as many New Jerseyans as possible through the transplant process.
To make a contribution to “Riley’s Dance” 5K team or sign up for NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Walk and USATF-Certified Race, visit www.njsharingnetwork.org. To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org or call NJ Sharing Network at 1-800-742-7365.