Back in June, Parents Advocating for Special Services in Education (PASSE) held it's annual Awards Night to give out awards to WO staff who work with students with disabilities. (Don't worry, this isn't about PASSE. No, really.) Leading up to that night, my co-president, Alex DeRonde, told me that she'd spoken to Sangeeta Badlani about talking for a few minutes at the Awards Night about music lessons for special needs students in the middle schools provided by the Nikhil Badlani Foundation. I'd met Sangeeta before, but most of West Orange knows her now as the mother of Nikhil, the child who was killed in June, 2011 when a car ran a stop sign. In the year since his death, the Nikhil Badlani Foundation had been founded and the first STOP for Nikhil Run/Walk had taken place and scholarships awarded, but I had no idea there were music lessons involved as well.
Now, we readily agreed, and only partly because we had a little scheduling situation with getting some principals to Liberty from other events. Principals usually do a nice summary of how awesome the award recipient is when one of their staff receives the PASSE Educator of the Year Award or the Betty Maddelena Award, but to do that, they have to be there, and one of our principals needed a bit of wiggle room, which made Sangeeta's offer to speak a godsend. But regardless of that, we were eager to have Sangeeta talk about a music program that included special needs students.
Personally, I don't like to be the person taking up any significant amount of time standing up in front of any significant number of people--give me a keyboard over a microphone any day. But Sangeeta spoke effortlessly and it was a joy to listen to her. She's a soft-spoken person who comfortably conveyed heartfelt warmth as she described the reasons behind the creation of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation and the events and programs it supports. That night she focused on her son's passion for music, and how this passion is honored in his memory by providing children his age with music lessons for free or reduced cost so others could enjoy the musical opportunities he was going to pursue. The Music for Nikhil program included voice lessons for interested and qualified special needs middle school students, and she described with obvious happiness how the first Musical Celebration and Tribute to Nikhil included a solo performance by a middle schooler (who happened to be a former classmate of my son) that got a standing ovation by the three hundred people present. The initial plan for the music program overall was to focus on the middle school, as that was the age Nikhil was when he died and would, as she told us that night, always be how they think of him. But as some of the students were moving up to the high school, she said they couldn't help but want to expand the program into the high school with them so the students could continue their lessons--and so it grows.
She spoke briefly about the scholarships for graduating high schoolers, but I confess by then I had a picture in my head of a tall boy singing happily to three hundred people that I kept for the rest of the night. And she asked that everyone present please help support the scholarship, the music program, and the traffic safety awareness program by coming to the “Stop for Nikhil” Run/Walk in September. It's a fun event, she urged, come with the kids, come be with friends, come join us.
I was touched by her talk, and so I told her afterwards that we'd be happy to get out the word when the time came about the Sunday, September 16, 2012 Stop for Nikhil Run/Walk, because basically, I thinks it's a great word to get out. Music lessons, scholarships, and traffic safety awareness--all are supported by the Nikhil Badlani Foundation, and all benefit from just one Sunday morning walk--or run--on Sunday, September 16, 2012.
Now, a 5K run may sound daunting, but then, we all know there are some of you who have been running during the warm-weather months, getting or staying in shape, possibly even making your Facebook friends feel fat and lazy by posting about your runs. You know who you are, don't deny it--you run, you sweat, you endure, and sometimes you think it would be nice to show that off. Well, guess what? You and your running shoes can shine in the Stop for Nikhil 5K Run at 9:30am on Sunday, September 16, 2012, at West Orange High School. If you're not into showing off, then think of this instead as a great way to address a mid-life crisis--I seem to have no shortage of high school friends who feel that turning certain ages is not bad if you can prove to yourself that you can run a 5K. It's all good--it's for a good cause, and really, how long could it take to run five kilometers, anyway?
Plus there's a WALK at 9:45am on Sunday, September 16, 2012--which sounds perfect for those of us that can only read posts about runs, not write them, or perhaps who have to push 80 pounds or more of kids-plus-stroller because Sunday mornings do, after all, usually include kids if you have them. I did the math (OK, I googled the conversion) and it turns out a 3K walk is only 1.86 miles--some of us easily walk two miles or more trying to get a baby to sleep in a stroller. So come do the baby's nap, or your toddler's fresh-air time, or your parent-sanity-get-out-of-the house time at the Sunday, September 16, 2012 Run/Walk.
Ah, kids who are post-stroller and pre-two-mile walk (AKA the under-8 crowd?) They can join in their own Kids Run at 10:30am on Sunday, September 16, 2012.
Feel like just coming and watching? That works, too.
So, there's something for everyone, runners, walkers, kids, spectators, and stroller-riding babes alike. And not only will you help raise traffic safety awareness and support the Nikhil Badlani Foundation and the family by being part of the turn-out, but next June, when seniors get a scholarship to help pursue their academic and artistic dreams, or when a middle schooler gets up there and sings before a crowd of hundreds, it will all trace back to your steps on (altogether now!) September 16, 2012.
[Registration online or at the event starting at 7:30am. Ceremony at 9am, run starts at 9:30am, walk starts at 9:45am, and Kids' Run at 10:30am. Or you can donate online if you can’t make it at all. We encourage that--the donating part, that is, not the not-coming part.]