WEST ORANGE, NJ — On Sunday, Sept. 13 at 9 a.m., the Nikhil Badlani Foundation kicked off its 10th annual STOP For Nikhil Race. 

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was held virtually and featured an opportunity to run, walk or bike at any time throughout the following week. This event is held each year to raise traffic safety awareness and to remember and honor those who have been killed or seriously injured by automobile and truck collisions. This is the only race in New Jersey about traffic safety. 

All proceeds from the event will go towards raising awareness of traffic safety and nurturing the musical and academic talents of children in Essex County.

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The virtual kickoff was live-streamed on the Foundation’s Facebook page. The event was hosted by Sangeeta Badlani, the founder and president of the foundation and Nikhil’s mom. 

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, the keynote speaker of the event, said, “I encourage everyone to follow your example, which shows how grassroots organizations and advocacy can change policy and transform lives." 

Badlani then asked Assemblyman John McKeon if he thought Vision Zero was an achievable goal for New Jersey.  McKeon responded, “It is a goal…, something to strive for.” McKeon suggested that perhaps Vision Zero language could be included in the pedestrian safety legislation that State Senator Teresa Ruiz is sponsoring. 

McKeon, who championed Nikhil’s Law, said that more than 500,000 people have taken the STOP For Nikhil Safety pledge since 2015 as a result of the passing of Nikhil’s Law, which provides those seeking a New Jersey driver's license with the option of signing the pledge.

The Badlani family was also joined by West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi, Superintendent of the West Orange School District Dr. Scott Cascone, and West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore.

The foundation launched the Families For Safe Streets NJ chapter with Tri-State Transportation Campaign as their strategic partner in 2017. There are currently 15 chapters around the nation. On the World Day of Remembrance for road traffic victims on Nov. 15, the chapters around the nation will come together to advocate for one legislative campaign.

The ceremony ended with Badlani presenting the Nikhil Badlani Foundation Inspiration award to Betty Dubinin for establishing the next-of-kin registry in the event of a crash. Dubinin’s 19-year-old daughter, Sara, was killed in a car crash. The family of Sara was not notified until an hour and half after the crash, by which time Sara had slipped into a coma. Badlani praised Dubinin for her tireless work to connect loved ones quickly in a time of crisis.

The STOP For Nikhil is a week-long event and ends on Sunday, September 20th. People can register through September 20th for a virtual 5k Run/3K Walk/20K Bike Ride. Donations towards the event are welcome until the end of this month, Sept. 30. This is the only fundraiser that supports the programs offered by the Nikhil Badlani Foundation.

To register/donate online at http://stopfornikhil.org