Pedaling Out Of The Pandemic

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Hicksville seniors and local nonprofit spearhead fundraiser for underprivileged kids

Some of the 100 bikers that participated in the Children’s Hope India bikeathon
(Photo courtesy of Ria Parasher)

When COVID-19 pressed a major existential pause button for the world, nonprofit organizations took a major wallop. For Albertson-based Children’s Hope India (CHI), the impact was no less severe. It was especially felt by the Long Island chapter of teens that were forced to stop and recalibrate. Led by team leaders Rohan Manjreka and Jesse Kohli, the 11-member strong group that is also made up of students from the Jericho, Syosset, Valley Stream, Seaford and Herricks school districts, had to balance full high school course loads (often done remotely) with trying to raise money for the less fortunate at a time when many donors were cutting back and previous in-person fund raisers weren’t an option.
One event in particular, the group’s annual walkathon, wound up not being held in 2020. This year saw the two Hicksville High School seniors and the rest of their membership intent on relaunching this highly popular fund raiser. It is structured so that 100 percent of its proceeds are earmarked to send underprivileged children to an eight-week, all-expense paid summer camp and in 2019, 25 kids were lucky enough to attend Young People’s Day Camp, which was held at Hicksville’s Our Lady of Mercy school. The coronavirus wound up providing inspiration for the group to pivot and get participants off their feet and onto wheels in going from walkathon to bikeathon.

Children’s Hope India Team Long Island from left: Dylan Uttamchandani, Rohan Manjrekar, Matt Labarca, Rishab Bhatia, Jesse Kohli, Ria Parasher, Umika Hathiramani
Shania Jagda, Arjun Parasher, Devin Awatramani. (Missing: Alina Nodrat and Patrick Labarca)
(Photo courtesy of Ria Parasher)

“At the beginning of this year, one of our team members suggested we maybe try biking as a result of the pandemic,” Kohli explained. “When people were under lockdown last year, we saw a lot of people wanting to get outdoors. A lot of people started biking. At Walmart, we all know the bikes were out of stock. It was almost like a Black Friday sale on the bikes. And we saw that within our friends, they loved biking and going on long biking trips. We decided it would be a great opportunity to do a bikeathon fundraiser.”

The decision was made to move this fundraiser from spring to the fall with the idea that cooler temperatures would be more conducive to people participating on Sunday, Oct. 4. Up until that point, the CHI Long Island chapter held car washes and other smaller fund raising events, finally switching its efforts to the bikeathon roughly a month before it was being held. Not surprisingly, locking in commitments proved to be a major challenge.

Cyclists came in all sizes at the bikeathon
(Photo courtesy of Ria Parasher)

“As much as we’ve been there the past few years planning a lot of fund raisers, we’re not as well known as a lot of the bigger charities that are out there like Island Harvest,” Kohli said. “We did a lot of work and had our team members reaching out to a lot of corporate sponsors. We went to different local businesses asking for sponsorships. It was definitely a challenge we were able to overcome and make the best out of in terms of getting funding that way. It’s bridging that gap between people saying they’ll come and making it happen. We kind of implemented a lot of things like social media outreach. We had digital registration to make it easier so people could register ahead of time. Reaching out to the community is how we overcame that. We tapped into a lot of different things like high school students and our parents, who are part of a lot of different local communities here.”

Team leaders from left: Rohan Manjrekar and Jesse Kohli
(Photo courtesy of Ria Parasher)

Spearheaded by the Long Island chapter of CHI, the bikeathon had further support coming from sister chapters in New Jersey and Manhattan. Roughly 100 bikers turned out as 25 CHI members handed out water, held raffles and directed participants for this event that ran from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and was a series of three laps around North Hempstead Beach Park that clocked in at just under five miles. For Manjreka, who joined CHI with Kohli when both were freshmen, the bikeathon’s success is especially rewarding given the fact that his sister, who recently graduated from Stony Brook University, founded the student-led Long Island chapter.
“My favorite part [of the bikeathon] was definitely seeing everyone come together after COVID-19,” he said. “After being stuck inside for so long, it was nice to see everyone was outside and having a good time. It was important to make sure all the money goes to these underprivileged kids.”

Visit www.childrenshopeindia.org to find out more about Children’s Hope India.

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