By Jessica Easthope
These days it seems like everyone is looking down. But Marc Weiner wants you to look up.
That’s because he’s hoping someone — anyone — will see these two billboards that tower over Times Square. On the electronic displays is Marc’s picture and his story. To put it simply: he needs a kidney.
“It’s about living donors and for me, I’m sending out the awareness because I still need a kidney,” said Marc. “I still need someone to donate one.”
This isn’t the first time Marc’s story has been seen at the “crossroads of the world.” In 2018, Marc got creative in his search for a kidney. Through his wife Lisa’s job and some friends, they put a billboard up in Times Square.
Hundreds of thousands of people saw Marc’s billboard every day, but it only took one to give him hope.
“For me, I always thought it would be a friend or a family,” said Marc. “That didn’t happen and out of nowhere, this selfless individual saw this billboard and wanted to donate to me.”
That person was Mike Lollo. Mike was working as an NYPD detective at the time when he read about Marc’s story and decided he was going to help. Unfortunately, Mike wasn’t a match for Marc. But he was for a woman in Pennsylvania named Ruth, and one year ago, Mike saved Ruth’s life by giving her his kidney.
“You don’t need to be a match,” said Mike. “Blood type doesn’t matter, geography doesn’t matter, whoever’s seeing this wherever you are, you could be Marc’s living donor.”
Exposure like this usually comes with a hefty price tag. Just ask Denise Levine, the woman in charge of what gets put up on these screens.
Denise knows a compelling ad when she sees one, so she knows this one is priceless.
“It brings life and happiness and it helps people,” said Denise, chief revenue officer at Branded Cities. “If we need help, we can get Marc help. We can help people and save lives.”
As for Marc, he hit some speed bumps on his journey for a kidney, but he’s now cancer-free and once again putting everything into his search.
“I’m hoping that I will find a donor soon,” said Marc. “I’m cancer-free. I’m looking forward to having that so I don’t have to be on dialysis anymore. I’m with Mike celebrating his anniversary of donating a kidney, and hopefully my chance will come soon.”
Marc’s match is out there, and just like his Times Square billboard, the search could be over in an instant. All it takes is a little courage and a lot of kindness.
“The idea that people, strangers, individuals are coming forward and are wanting to help is just surreal,” said Marc, “and I hope I can help someone in a similar situation.”
It’s been more than two years since Mike and Marc met. They now have become advocates for living kidney donation.
“I now have extended family in Pennsylvania,” said Mike. “I have Marc and I really know someone is going to see this and they’re going to press that link because it’s the right thing to do.”
Marc is still waiting, and while he didn’t get a kidney from Mike, he did get a friend. Now all he needs is you.
Dawn del Mastro-Churma, the president of the company that owns the billboard, donated the space to the Weiners for free at two minutes an hour, a fee that would normally cost $30,000 a month.
Marc is still looking for his life-saving kidney. For more information on his story and how to become a living donor, visit www.kidney4marc.org.