WEST ORANGE, NJ - The drop of a white curtain revealed the nine brightly colored, plexiglass-covered drawings displayed in the West Orange Public Library, designed and decorated by children and teens in the West Orange Community. To bring awareness of safe driving during April, which is Distracted Drivers Awareness Month, scenes of distracted driving were displayed in a colorful and detailed collage format, neatly arranged on a wall near the entrance of the library.

Leading up to the unveiling, West Orange students and other volunteers have been at work for over a month, first brainstorming ideas for the project before children of all ages decorated the drawing by pasting colored tissue paper to make the designs come to life. The effort was led by Cindy Klein and Kim Scheib, two local artists that jumped on the opportunity to do the project when the idea was brought up to them by Sangeeta Badlani, the mother of Nikhil Badlani. Nikhil Badlani was killed in a car accident in June of 2011. Since the tragedy, the Badlani family has been extremely involved in advocating safe driving and distracted drivers awareness through the Nikhil Badlani Foundation and by organizing and making projects such as this possible.

At the unveiling ceremony, the director of the West Orange Public Library, Renee Riczker, spoke of the wonderful opportunity that was presented to connect this project with the library. April is is both Library Appreciation Month as well as Distracted Drivers Awareness Month. Riczker went on to present a startling fact that stunned the overflowing crowed that filled the conference room of the library: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, 3,000 Americans were killed in the past year in automobile accidents. It is because of this as well as in an effort to prevent future tragedy that dedicated students, parents and community members alike volunteer their time to raise awareness.

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“The project was a great experience for everyone and could not have been done without the involvement of the kids in the community,” said Cindy Klein.

For more information on the Nikhil Badlani Foundation, go to: http://nikhilbadlanifoundation.org/.

Jake Klein is a student at West Orange High School.  The West Orange Alternative Press is excited to have him on board as a reporter for this and upcoming articles. Photographer Alex Schuppel is also a student at West Orange High School.