Marc Weiner, left, stands in front of his Times Square billboard...

Marc Weiner, left, stands in front of his Times Square billboard ad, with Michael Lollo, who became a donor after reading about Weiner. Credit: Maeghan Lollo

For West Babylon resident Michael Lollo, a Times Square billboard was a literal sign to save someone’s life.

Lollo learned in 2018 that Marc Weiner, a Great Neck man who had lost both kidneys in a cancer battle, tried to find a kidney donor by putting up a billboard in New York City’s most famous attraction.

Lollo, then an NYPD detective, wanted to give Weiner, a complete stranger, a kidney, but he wasn’t a match. He decided to become an altruistic donor.

Exactly two years after giving his kidney to a 59-year-old Pennsylvania woman, Lollo and Weiner wanted to keep raising awareness and trying to find Weiner a kidney.

On Friday, two Times Square billboards were donated for the day to spread the word. They flashed a picture of Weiner and read, "My name is Marc. I need a kidney. YOU can help."

Weiner, who is now cancer-free, said he was "smitten by the selfless nature of Lollo" and his decision to donate to someone else in need. "But I’m even more proud that my billboard is bringing awareness to (becoming) a living donor."

Weiner, 55, lost his kidneys, bladder and prostate during a cancer battle that began in 2015. Weiner, a CBS News executive who is married with a 14-year-old daughter, must undergo dialysis three times a week.

Weiner was cleared for a transplant in spring 2018, but the list was long. There are 7,673 patients in New York waiting for a new kidney now, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Kidneys are the most needed organ nationally. Of 119,059 patients waiting for organ transplants, 99,353 need a kidney, according to the group. Most kidney transplant patients wait at least a year, and some wait more than five years.

Weiner’s longtime family friend Dawn Del Mastro-Chruma was inspired by viral social media posts of people seeking kidney donors. Del Mastro-Chruma, who worked for a company that owned a Times Square billboard, donated the billboard and ran Weiner’s message for 15 seconds at a time from the end of August through November 2018. Similar ad packages cost companies about $35,000.

Lollo, now 48, read a news story about the billboard. He had tried to donate a kidney earlier in 2018 but it didn’t work out. The news story made him determined to try again.

He donated his kidney on Dec. 19, 2018. The next day, Weiner went to his hospital room.

"He was so moved that although the billboard didn’t yield any results for him, it helped save somebody else," Lollo said.

Lollo and Weiner became "tremendous friends," Weiner said. Lollo's family had Thanksgiving dinner last year with the woman who got his kidney and her family.

Lollo, who retired from the NYPD in August, decided that as his two-year donation anniversary approached, they should try another billboard. The original one had been taken down but Del-Mastro Chruma came through again, finding another company to donate two billboards for the day.

Lollo said seeing the billboard flash in Times Square stopped him in his tracks. The experience and the billboard donation "was just wow, extremely moving," Lollo said.

This time, instead of seeking a direct match, Weiner is hoping someone will donate a kidney on his behalf, which will help boost his own chances for a transplant. He would receive a voucher that would pair him with a matching donor when one becomes available. "Whoever is donating or decides to donate on Marc’s behalf, you’re not just saving Marc. You’re saving at minimum one other person," Lollo said.

Weiner isn't used to the attention of having his face on a billboard, but it was worth it for the cause.

"I’m very proud. I’m gracious, and I’m glad I’m doing something really good," Weiner said.

"And I know that at some point in time, it'll be my turn," he said.

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