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Astorino to Honor Acocella, Promote Organ Donations

Joey Acocella served as Harrison Town Clerk for two terms until his death last year.

Friends, family and notable politicians will gather at this week to pay respects to Joseph Acocella Jr, a little more than a year after the town icon .

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino will be joined by members of the Acocella family, Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont and representatives from the New York Organ Donor Network on Aug. 16 at 2 p.m. Ten-year-old Acacia Puleo, a transplant recipient from Chappaqua, will also speak about how organ donation gave her a second chance.

Acocella, a lifelong Harrison resident who was twice elected to serve as town clerk, died on Aug. 8, 2011, at the age of 30. Before his death he had served as a source of inspiration for the community and beyond.

“We all lost a dear friend and dedicated public servant when Joseph Acocella passed away,” Astorino said in a statement. “He was truly an inspiration to all who were lucky enough to know him personally, as I did. Despite the many challenges in his life, he always remained positive and found a way to persevere. He is missed, but his spirit and determination live on.”

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Since Acocella's passing, his family has organized the Joseph Acocella Memorial Fund, which pledges to support some of Joseph's favorite charities. They have also spent time working with the New York Organ Donor Network to help raise awareness of the importance of organ donations. have become a fixture in Harrison before and after Acocella's death, thanks partly to the work of Joseph Acocella and his family.

“A person dies every 15 hours waiting for an organ transplant in New York,” said Laura McCorry, Joseph Acocella’s sister. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. The percentage of New Yorkers registered to be organ donors is the third worst nationwide. Yet the vast majority of New Yorkers think organ donation is a good thing. That’s why our family has embarked on this campaign to bring change.”

Acocella had battled Lumbar Sacral Agenesis—a spinal condition—since birth. He also battled kidney and heart problems throughout his life. Despite those overwhelming obstacles, Acocella dedicated his life to public service. He was elected as Harrison's town clerk in 2007 and was re-elected in 2009. He had announced his intent to run for re-election in 2011 before his death.

Always an inspiration to those who knew him, Acocella had both of his legs removed at the age of three and was confined to a wheelchair for most of his life. However, he never let the condition slow him down.

“Although he was born with a disability, he never let it dictate his life,” said McCorry. “He was taught from a young age that even though he was in a wheelchair, he should stand up for what he believed in – and he did, always.”

Acocella attended Harrison schools, where he became involved in student government. Despite losing his mother to a heart condition when he was 11 and continuing health issues, Acocella was elected student body president during all four years of high school.

He later graduated college and took a position with the records division of the Harrison Police Department. In 2005 Acocella was elected as the youngest member of the Harrison Board of Education. When he was elected town clerk two years later, he was the youngest person to hold the position in the state.

The New York Organ Donor Network is a non-profit, federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO) dedicated to the recovery of organs and tissue for transplant in the greater New York-metropolitan area. Established in 1978, the Donor Network services a diverse population of 13 million people—making it the second-largest OPO in the United States—and works with 10 transplant centers and more than 90 hospitals in the region to facilitate donation.

Additionally, the Donor Network strives to raise awareness for donation and enrollment in the New York State Donate Life Registry. Visit www.savelivesny.org or call (646) 291-4444 to learn more.

Additionally, the Donor Network strives to raise awareness for donation and enrollment in the New York State Donate Life Registry. Visit www.savelivesny.org or call (646) 291-4444 to learn more.

Nicole Sandomenico August 16, 2012 at 07:43 AM
What a wonderful way to honor his life!

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