Akshaya Patra Foundation USA held its 7th and final virtual gala of 2020, the Gratitude Gala, Nov. 21, 2020.
Organizers said the Gratitude Gala was a huge success raising more than $3 million, according to a Nov. 25, press release from Akshaya Patra.
The number of attendees who came to the Gala virtually, crossed the10,000 mark, a signature achievement. People viewed the event on Akshaya Patra’s webpage, Facebook, YouTube and TV Asia, organizers said.
Dr. Rachana Kulkarni, a cardiologist, and Akshaya Patra Board Member hosted the evening. Dr. Kulkarni told News India Times, “The event went even better than pre-COVID times. Attendance was much bigger. Usually, we have 400-500 attendees (to the in-person events), but in this one 2,500 people registered and attended and thousands more viewed it.”
The funds raised will provide COVID relief to migrant workers, including cooked meals, ration boxes for families, and Happiness Kits containing 30-days worth of food, hygiene products, and educational supplies to our mid-day meal beneficiaries, as well as support mid-day meals for school children when schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year.
“This Gratitude Gala saw the highest ever raised at more than $3 million, because people opened up their hearts. And one anonymous donor came up with $1million!” Dr. Kulkarni told News India Times.
“Since this was the culmination gala for the year, we wanted to thank all those who worked for the betterment of all humanity, all our heroes and frontline workers,” she added.
Among the frontline workers recognized was Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, physician, philanthropist and chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold, who has a long association with Akshaya Patra.
At the Gala, Dr. Parikh expressed gratitude to the organization in his video message. “Akshay Patra USA has taught me that there are millions of children in the world who need the incentive to get an education. Gandhiji said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread” – And Akshaya Patra practices that through its Mid-Day Meal program that brings poor children to school for a hot meal, and keeps them there for an education that helps them go forward,” adding, “Akshaya Patra can always count on the support of Parikh Worldwide media, ITV Gold and me personally.”
This year has been a year of change for Akshaya Patra as they have shifted all in-person events to be entirely virtual. The seven virtual galas held through the pandemic, have reached more than 32,000 people and featured a renowned list of speakers, the press release said, including stars and business leaders from Raveena Tandon to John Chambers, Jamshyd Godrej, to Sanjeev Kapoor, as well as Boman Irani, and Sudha Murthy, to name just a few.
“The Gratitude Gala was a poignant reminder of the realities of hunger. During the COVID crisis, we stepped up to serve 100 million meals. But we also know that for a child, hunger is a crisis every single day,” Vandana Tilak, President of Akshaya Patra Foundation USA, is quoted saying in the press release.
“There is no escape, except for the meal they receive in school. It is up to all of us to keep up the work of providing meals and education and a decent childhood for our beneficiaries,” Tilak noted.
The Gratitude Gala was also a celebration of Akshaya Patra’s 20th Anniversary and it took the opportunity to thank all of its supporters, donors, well-wishers, and partners.
Bollywood actress and politician Hema Malini shared her favorite silver screen moments, movies, and heroine roles, discussed her involvement in politics, and working to promote education and women’s empowerment.
The inspirational poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar voiced his gratitude for all the work Akshaya Patra has done to end hunger. He shared one of his original poems titled, Bhookh (Hunger).
Consul General of India Randhir Jaiswal expressed his admiration for Akshaya Patra’s achievements and partnership with the Indian Government to change millions of children’s lives.
Lyricist, playback singer, and writer Swanand Kirkire recited a poem he wrote and dedicated to Akshaya Patra. The poem talks about the eagerness for children to learn and discover the world and how Akshaya Patra provides for these children, so they do not go to bed hungry.
Throughout the evening, renowned singer Shankar Mahadevan performed several popular songs and classic hits, ranging from semi-classical compositions from Bandish Bandits, to bhajans, and renderings of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, to modern foot-tapping numbers from Kal ho na Ho and Lakshya, for the viewers to dance and sing-along.
Overall, the Gala was a celebration of Akshaya Patra’s beneficiaries, volunteers, chapter teams from Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey, and New York, and generous donors and supporters.
Established in 2000, Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest NGO school meal program, providing hot, nutritious school lunches to more than 1.8 million children in over 19,257 schools, through 55 kitchens in 12 states and two Union Territories in India.
It costs only $20 to feed a child for an entire school year, the organization says.