Boomer Esiason, Grizz Chapman from '30 Rock' team up to promote organ donation
There aren't too many people who can make 6-foot-5 Boomer Esiason feel short, but at an even 7 feet, Grizz Chapman of "30 Rock" is one of them.
And now, the two big guys are coming together to tackle a big problem: the appallingly low rate of organ donation in New York.
Grizz got a kidney transplant , and Boomer's son Gunnar, a college sophomore with cystic fibrosis, may need a lung transplant.
Last year, only 242 people who died in the New York metro area donated their organs. There are 7,833 people on the waiting list - and some will die waiting.
I'm sure average New Yorkers would gladly donate their organs after death to save eight lives.
After all, you can't take your heart, two lungs, liver, two kidneys, intestines or pancreas with you.
Yet only 16% of eligible New Yorkers have signed up to New York State's Donate Life Registry - a far cry from the national average of 40%.
The reason? New York is still in the Dark Ages when it comes to organ donations.
Nine months after former Gov. David Paterson signed an online e-registry into law, you still have to visit a DMV office to register or print out a form and snail-mail it.
Some people may think they're too old, or that poor health may have disqualified them. Others mistakenly believe it's against their religion.
Elaine Berg, CEO of the New York Organ Donor Network, says: "We encourage all people to never rule themselves out as potential donors. And all major religions support the principles of organ donation."
Grizz has a different theory.
"I think people don't donate because of lack of knowledge," he says. "The world is always talking about things going wrong, when they should be talking about things going right, like what Ryan Perkins did for me."
Perkins, a 23-year-old from Arizona, decided to become a living donor and donate one of his kidneys to Grizz when he heard of his plight.
The East New York native was on dialysis at 36, after years of suffering from hypertension.
"Ryan is family now," Grizz says. "I'm grateful for Ryan every day."
It motivated him to start TeamGrizz, which sponsors walks to raise money to help with the side costs of transplants.
Esiason, an NFL star and WFAN host who has raised $100 million to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, thinks more people would be motivated to sign up if they knew about Dennis Mallooseril, a 25-year-old killed in a New Jersey church trying to protect a woman from a gunman.
"His parents were heartbroken, but they decided to donate his lungs to John Muscarella," a 21-year-old whose lungs failed due to cystic fibrosis.
When Mallooseril's mother spoke at a Boomer Esiason Foundation benefit about the comfort the donation had given her, "There wasn't a dry eye in the house," Boomer says.
New Yorkers will be able to hear many more such stories this month at DMV offices from transplant recipients and donor families, who also will urge people to join the registry.
And Grizz and Boomer have started a friendly competition to see who can sign up more people.
"If between us, we get even just two people to sign up, then everybody wins," Grizz says.