March of Dimes has had a large presence in the West Windsor-Plainsboro area in recent years through the work of the Mercer County Youth Chain Reaction Council. The first Rangeela benefit was organized eight years ago by Rahul Bansal, then a student at High School North. Under the guidance of Bansal, now an investment banker in New York City who attends the annual event, the group has raised more than $250,000. This year’s benefit will be held at High School North on Saturday, September 12, at 7:30 p.m.
The youth chapter has risen to one the most successful youth councils in the nation in terms of increasing awareness in the community and raising funds to help the organization in its mission to end premature birth and infant mortality. Bansal, Neha Deshpande, and Nikhita Thaper, all former members of the Mercer group, were granted membership into the National Youth Council, a highly exclusive group of only the most dedicated and committed volunteers.
This year’s event is being organized by co-presidents of the council, Ronak Gandhi and Ranajoy Bose, and last year’s president, Aakash Bhatia. This year, the event will be a Raas/Garba evening, instead of a show. Garba is a form of Indian folk dance, which originates from the Gujraat region of India. Men, women, and children dress in colorful clothes and perform the dance as a form of prayer during the Hindu festival, Navaratri. People are encouraged to bring their own dandiyas (colorful sticks), though the March of Dimes will be selling dandiyas at $2 a pair.
There will also be a Rangoli Thali (decorative plate) competition for all ages to display their artistic passion. The fee to compete is $5. A silent auction and raffle features airline tickets from Air India, Jet Airways, and Continental Airlines; gift certificates; and gift baskets prepared by area businesses. A $25 ticket includes dinner from the Palace of Asia. ($20 for children and seniors.)
Bhatia, a senior at North, has been active in the March of Dimes chapter since he was in the eighth grade. “I learned about it through one of my mother’s friends who had volunteered with March of Dimes due to family issues,” he says. “I was really intrigued about the many things they have done for babies.”
When he was a high school freshman the group traveled to Capital Health System’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “After seeing premature babies I was inspired to help more,” he says. “The machines they are connected to are the only thing keeping them alive.”
Bhatia is on the varsity golf team and is an active member of Model UN. Although he is not sure of his college plans, he “would like to remain committed to March of Dimes.”
“This is to be our largest Rangeela event to date, and we encourage everyone to come, enjoy an evening of food, music, and dancing, and to help the March of Dimes in their mission to end premature birth,” says Bhatia.