Ninth Gift of Life Gala focuses on schizophrenia and bipolar fundraising this year

Founders Paresh, Flora and Dr. Harshil Parekh greet honorees, community leaders, supporters of causes of differently-abled people, at 9th Annual Gala. PHOTO: Collage provided by Gift of Life

Gift of Life USA, is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization, ( celebrated its ninth Annual Gala April 21, 2024, at the Huntington Hilton hotel in Long Island, New York, advocating for those diagnosed with Schizophrenia and BiPolar issues.

The event featured inspiring speakers, entertainment and opportunities to make a difference in the community, and donors gave “very generously,” according to the organizers, even more than previous years.

Founded by Paresh, Flora and Dr. Harshil Parekh, Gift of Life aims at helping the specially-abled and nurture acceptance and empathy, to bridge the gap across the various communities.

It was a full house attended by representatives of several organizations and community leaders. Emceed by Dr. Harshil Parekh and Akash Patel, the event once again displayed the inspiring journey of those with disorders, and raised awareness about the talents of these inspiring individuals and their experiences.

This year, Gift of Life advocated for Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorders, and the Gala served as a unique platform where sponsors, donors and supporters got the opportunity to meet differently-abled speakers, entrepreneurs, employers, performers and beneficiaries. Among those who addressed the gathering were:

Michelle Hammer – an entrepreneur living with Schizophrenia whose company produces mental health-focused clothing under the brand, inspired the audience with her story of being diagnosed at 22 after a misdiagnosis of bipolar at age 18. She is a schizophrenia activist passionately fighting to reduce stigma by starting conversations about mental health.

John & Barbara McNamara, CFO and Director of SMILE, Support My Independent Life, help about 200 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to live self-directed lives.

Their own differently-abled abilities have not stopped them achieving the impossible, the press release noted. The event started with an in-depth overview of the organization’s introduction and program details by Dr. Bhavani Srinivasan followed by rocking band performance by Down syndrome and autistic FREE Drum players, followed by recognizing the youth leadership of Dr. Harshil Parekh for his dedicated and continued vision and mission to serve the community and humanity.

Poetess Tejal A. Desai rendered a poem recital dedicated to her mom and was recognized as a Youth role model. There was also a prelaunch of her book of poems.

The Dominican Dance Group performed, and the highlight of the event was a Dance Workshop of several dance forms led by Shilpa Jhurani of RS International NYC.

Directors Kalpana Patel, Kamlesh & Mrudula Parekh, Shashi Malik, Purnima & Tejal Desai, Dr. Bhavani Srinivasan, Sheetal and Jasmin Pathak, Dr. Harshil Parekh, Akash Patel as well as Founders Paresh and Flora Parekh welcomed and thanked leaders of several organizations, community leaders, sponsors, and supporters for their continued support year over year. Directors Mayur Dalal and Amarish Kachhy shared their remote wishes and blessings.

The various programs of Gift of Life include “Save a Child” Support, “We are Special” Talent & Skill Recognition, “Health & Education,” “Awareness”, “College Scholarships for Differently-Abled” and “Service Dog Support Program”

The organization awards scholarships to autistic college-going students, promotes and showcases talent of the differently abled, helps the special needs community with health and education needs and much more.



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