Ninth Annual Nikhil Run/Walk Held at West Orange High School
WEST ORANGE, NJ – The ninth Annual Walk/Run for Nikhil, a popular event sponsored by the Nikhil Badlani Foundation and held at West Orange High School (WOHS), raised more than $43,000 to help promote traffic safety awareness, music education and scholarships for graduating seniors this year.
"Nine years ago, we had our first run/walk,” said Sangeeta Badlani, a founder of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation. “The suggestion was made with the idea to celebrate Nikhil's birthday. Nine years later, it remains the only run/walk in the State of New Jersey that advocates for traffic safety."
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 foundation has worked tirelessly to honor the West Orange student’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 and South Orange.
To date, the foundation has:
- Spent more than $150,000 on traffic safety;
- Educated more than 7,000 students;
- Created 26 traffic safety murals;
- Run advertising campaigns on NJT train stations and Light Rail;
- Distributed $125,000 in Academic Scholarships to 75 students; and
- Provided $95,000 in Music Scholarships to 130 students.
During the 2019 event, Darlene Folas, president of the WOHS Youth Advisory Board, discussed the initiatives that the board has undergone its inception in November 2018. These included speaking to middle school students, painting a mural at the high school and winning a Driving Simulator through the Brain Injury Alliance of NJ competition.
Hundreds of community members attended the event, where the crowd enjoyed raffles, food trucks, a Kids Fun Run, face painting, aerobics and more at Suriano Stadium. Traffic safety and local organizations were also present to provide information and hand out literature.
West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi attended in order to express gratitude toward the Badlani family and welcome their continued partnership with the community.
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, who was one of the supporters of Nikhil's Law, also thanked the foundation for its efforts on behalf of traffic safety.
Thanks to the Nikhil Badlani Foundation Youth Advisory Board, which was formed earlier this year to empower high school students to have a voice in reducing the number of car crashes that occur, the pledge now also appears in an interactive mural at WOHS.
The 2019 Nikhil Badlani Inspiration Award was presented to Burlington City High School students in recognition of their determination to create a positive change and a legacy of increased safety in honor of Antwan L. Timbers, Jr.
Badlani explained that in May 2016, "another town 70 miles south of us lost one of their own." Antwan L. Timbers Jr. was walking along Route 130 when he was killed by a drunk driver.
The students at Burlington City High School, where Timbers was a sophomore and an ROTC member, started a “25 Save Lives” Campaign in memory of their classmate under the leadership of principal James Flynn. According to Badlani, that bill was recently signed into law.
For the second consecutive year, Senay Dani, a sophomore and member of the ROTC and student council at WOHS, took first place in the Men’s Division of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation 5K with a time of 18:20.2.
Tiffany Smith took first place in the Women’s Division with a time of 20:29.
"It is wonderful to see the community come together even after nine years to support our cause,” said Badlani. “I am always heartened by the big turnout of students at this event.
“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in teens. Our mission is to educate them about the dangers of disobeying traffic laws and offer them the opportunity to take the STOP For Nikhil Safety Pledge to prevent tragedies like ours. We are hopeful that after participating in our event and hearing our story and others people will think before they reach for their phone while driving."