Sankara Eye Foundation Raises $1.3 million at NYC Gala

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Leaders of Sankara Eye Foundation at the Sept. 24, 2022, fundraising gala in NYC, hold up a check showing $1.3 million raised at the event. Photo: Courtesy SEF

New York: The Coimbatore-based Sankara Eye Foundation held a very successful fundraiser in New York City Sept. 24, 2022. The event raised $1.3 million to meet the organization’s vision of carrying out 1 million free eye surgeries a year by 2030 and eradicate blindness in India.

The “Be the Light Gala” was the largest fundraiser to date of Sankara, a press release said, adding that the organization aspires to be a Unicorn Social Enterprise as it is already among the largest community eye care providers in India.

Held at Cipriani’s main ballroom in Midtown Manhattan, the gala attracted some 325 attendees who opened their hearts and wallets to donate in response to the speakers who extolled Sankara’s work in India.

Executives of Sankara Eye Foundation and others who addressed the Sept. 24, 2022, fundraising gala in NYC. Photos: Courtesy SEF
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Sankara executives laid out the ground plan to scale up the operations by almost doubling the existing 11 Sankara Eye Hospitals and 10 partner hospitals to achieve the ambitious goal – almost four times the 230,000 eye surgeries they performed in 2019 before Covid struck.

Keynote speakers were BV Jagadeesh, managing partner at  KAAJ Ventures, a long-term supporter of SEF, and Worldwide President, Johnson & Johnson Vision – Surgical Vision’s Warren Foust.

Donations picked up after Gala Co-Chair Mohan Wanchoo, techpreneur and philanthropist, announced he was donating $500,000 to Sankara. As a couple of other guests promised to match $100,000 each, others chipped in to make it happen, a press release from Sankara said.

Padma Shri recipient Dr RV Ramani, founder and managing trustee of Sankara Eye Care Institutions based in Coimbatore, addressed the gala through video. He emphasized that Sankara’s 2030 vision is as much about making the organization self-sustaining and not remain dependent on donations. And that will be achieved by making 20% paying patients fund the 80% free surgeries.

Though Sankara’s operations were halted during the two Covid years, the Payroll Protection Program ensured staff continued to be paid both at their own and partner hospitals, some hospitals were also made available for Covid care use, Dr. Ramani said.

Speakers at the NYC event included Murali Krishnamurthy, founder and executive chairman of Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) USA, who emphasized the importance of their mission because one-third of the blind of the world are in India, and blindness is curable.

During the event, which was covered by ITV Gold, Padma Shri recipient Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media/ITV Gold, spoke to Krishnamurthy and Foust on camera. “They (Sankara) have done wonders,” said Dr. Parikh who has known Krishnamurthy for more than 2 decades. “We congratulate you. We have been fortunate to have our media   supporting them (Sankara) in both print and TV,” Dr. Parikh added. Krishnamurthy told ITV Gold that Sankara was very proud to have Dr. Parikh and Foust at the event. Wanchoo told ITV Gold Sankara was ‘fortunate’ to have Drs. Sudha and Sudhir Parikh at the event.

Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman Parikh Worldwide Media/ITV Gold greeting and congratulating Sankara Eye Foundation Gala Co-Chair Mohan Wanchoo, at the Sept. 24, 2022 fundraising gala in New York City. Photo: ITV Gold

Founded in 1998, SEF USA is a volunteer-run non-profit under 501(c) (3) of IRS code. It boasts the highest rating from Charity Navigator for many years in a row, the press release said.

Speakers dwelt on how vision is a gift of God, and recounted the words of beneficiaries who had received eye surgeries and how it had changed their lives. Moving images of young and old beneficiaries were screened on the massive backdrop interspersing the graphs of projections and pictures representing Sankara’s sprawling operations across India.

Dancers performing at the Sept. 24, 2022, Sankara Eye Foundation gala and fundraiser in NYC. Photo: ITV Gold

Dancers from Aatma Performing Arts, and singer Jeffrey Iqbal, performed at the event and drew the audience to the floor with their upbeat music.

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