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Blood Drive Honors Former Harrison Town Clerk

HARRISON, N.Y. -- Approximately 20 people showed up to give blood Wednesday in West Harrison for the first annual Joe Acocella “Give to Live” Memorial Blood Drive.

When Acocella, the former town clerk, died last August after he was unable to get a new kidney, his family said that they would keep his legacy alive. Wednesday marked the first of six blood drives over the next three weeks in the former clerk’s honor.

“Joey was well known and just a great guy,” said Recreation Assistant Barbara Fanelli, who volunteered at the blood drive. “This is great for the community and it is bringing people together. I think it’s great that he left behind this legacy that will keep growing.”

Town Board Trustee Fred Sciliano was one of the people who donated blood. Sciliano, who twice ran with Acocella on the Republican ticket in town elections, said that he is hoping that the blood drive will bring attention to other people in the area who may have similar problems Acocella had during his life.

“Joey meant a lot to a lot of us and really cared about other people,” Sciliano said. “He appreciated the second chance he got when he got a kidney transplant (in 2000) and it’s appropriate that we are helping other people out.”

Jeff Graham, co-president of the Transplant Support Organization (TSO) knew Acocella personally for seven years. Graham, who got a new liver 15 years ago, was on hand to register people for organ donations through the organization Donate Life. Graham said that Acocella was one of the most “unbelievable” people that he had ever met.

“To live just about his entire life in a wheelchair and not think that he had an impediment is an amazing thing,” Graham said. “He didn’t let anything stop him.”

Though a couple of people signed up to become organ donors, Graham said that there needs to be more. Like Acocella, 6,000 people nationwide die while on a waiting list to receive a new organ.

“If Joey got another kidney he probably would still be alive today,” Graham said. “Organ donation helps save lives and that’s what Joey was all about.”

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