WEST ORANGE, NJ – The eighth annual Walk/Run for Nikhil, sponsored by the Nikhil Badlani Foundation (NBF) earlier this month, raised more $50,000 to help promote traffic safety awareness, music education and scholarships for graduating West Orange and South Orange seniors.
The foundation was established in 2011 following the death of 11-year-old Nikhil Badlani in an automobile crash caused by a distracted driver. Since then, the NBF has worked tirelessly to honor Nikhil’s memory by educating the public on traffic safety, providing musical training to students in the West Orange Public Schools and awarding scholarships to seniors in West Orange and South Orange.
“We set a goal for this year and with the help of the community and our sponsors we were able to achieve it,” said Nikhil’s mother, Sangeeta Badlani, one of the foundation's founders.
More than 800 community members attended the event, held in Suriano Stadium at West Orange High School and featuring raffles, food trucks, a Kids Fun Run, Face painting, aerobics and more. Gregory Elementary School will receive a $2,000 grant from the NBF for winning the West Orange Public Schools challenge of forming the most teams and raising the most money.
“This year we hit several milestones,” said Sangeeta. “We created our twenty-first traffic safety mural, educated over 5,000 students, and impacted over 20,000 students. We spent over $120,000 and partnered with NJ Transit to run public service announcements (PSAs).
“Academically, we have distributed scholarships to 61 students in excess of $100,000 and provided over 1,700 musical instruction hours to more than 130 children, investing $94,000 in their training.”
West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi was on hand to thank the Badlani family and welcome their continued partnership in the community. Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. also thanked the NBF for its efforts on behalf of traffic safety.
Anay Badlani, Nikhil’s younger brother and a current freshman at West Orange High School, led participants in Nikhil’s Pledge, which now appears on all New Jersey Driving tests thanks to the passage of Nikhil’s Law in 2015.
Donna Setaro was the recipient of this year’s NBF Inspiration Award. Setaro’s son, NJ State Trooper Marc Castellano, was killed in the line of duty on June 6, 2010, on Route 195 in Howell when a driver failed to slow down and move over.
“Every day is still a challenge,” said Setaro as she described life without her son and the efforts of her “Move Over Campaign.”
The “move over” law requires motorists to change lanes in order to give safe clearance to law enforcement officers, firefighters, ambulances, utility workers and tow-truck drivers. On July 26, Gov. Phil Murphy signed A3749 into law, designating the portion of Interstate Highway Route 195 in Howell as “State Trooper Marc K. Castellano Memorial Highway.”
Senay Dani, a freshman and member of the ROTC at West Orange High School, took first place in the men’s division of the 5K with a time of 19:01.45. Laura Pfeifer took first place for the women with a time of 21:57.56. See all the results of the 5K here.
All photos were provided by Cynthia Cumming, Communications Coordinator for the West Orange School District.