SAN JOSE, Calif. – Braving the heat wave that blanketed the west coast, thousands of participants thronged the streets of San Jose June 26 to partake in the annual 2016 Silicon Sage Homes ICC Sevathon run/walk/yoga event.

Walkers, runners and yoga enthusiasts of all ages dressed in blue-colored Sevathon t-shirts helped raise vital funds for over 100 non-profit organizations either in India/South Asia or run by Indian Americans by performing 27, 54, and 108 sun salutations or running/walking a 5K, 10K or a 13.1-mile half-marathon along the Guadalupe River Trail in Arena Green East Park in downtown San Jose.

Sevathon, which comes from the Sanskrit word “Seva,” meaning service, promotes the spirit of selfless service. Imbibing this spirit of giving, volunteers prepared and served snacks and drinks for the participants and attendees.

The inspiring charity fitness event kicked off with a torch lighting ceremony following which the attendees took to the tracks. Pumping more energy into the participants at the start line were the “dhols” (drums), which played Bhangra-inspired music.

About 400 people – the largest number – supported Sevathon regular Sankara Eye Foundation and its mission of eliminating curable blindness in India. “We have raised an overall donation of about $20,000 at Sevathon this year,” Murali Krishnamurthy, founder and SEF executive chairman, told India-West.

Krishnamurthy said SEF has raised $2 million each for free eye surgery hospitals in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, and in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The construction would begin as soon as the organization acquires the land, he said, adding that the land has been procured for the Jaipur, Rajasthan, hospital, the construction for which will begin in August this year.

“In Mumbai, the Jhunjhunwala Foundation has donated a full building to us, and for the conversion of that into an eye hospital, they are sharing 50 percent of the costs, so we can complete Mumbai hospital in about half the cost,” he added.

Sevathon, which allowed participants to show support for the causes they believed in, also served as a platform to unify the community though each one cited their own reasons for joining the annual affair.

Shobha Hiatt, co-founder of Narika, a non-profit organization that serves survivors of domestic violence in the Bay Area Indian American and larger South Asian community, said 40 people registered to run for the organization at the Sevathon.

“I like community fundraisers like that as it keeps our costs down of doing a fundraiser,” Hiatt told India-West. “It also helps us to connect with other community members because sometimes when you do your own services, you tend to be in your little cage. We always look to see if we can connect with other community partners so that we can deepen our services.”

Echoing Hiatt’s sentiments, Arvind Varadaraju, a 5K participant, told India-West, “It’s a great event for Indian community. I just moved to the Bay Area so it’s a great place, a great occasion to find out how to involve myself in the community.”

All the booths saw a constant flow of people. Many attendees took advantage of the free health screenings offered by the South Asian Heart Center at the venue. The booth was manned by medical students and volunteers, who provided metric readings for services like blood pressure, body fat percentage and height-weight to calculate BMI, among others.

Various Bay Area dignitaries and Indian American officials attended this year’s Sevathon, including San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra, California 17th Congressional district candidate Ro Khanna, Consul (Community Affairs, Information & Culture) K. Venkata Ramana, Deputy Consul General Dr. K.J. Srinivasa, and Kansen Chu, state assembly member from California.

“I appreciate Sevathon over the last few years for bringing our community together and helping so many non-profits doing great work,” Kalra told the audience, “…allowing us as Indians and South Asians to focus on health and fitness.”

Dancers from several organizations performed onstage following the walk/run, including NKD Arts and Rhythm Divine.

The top three finishers in the 10K men’s category were Ankur Hangal, Nikhil Agarwal and Arnav Agarwal, while in the female division, Shreya Suresh won the top prize and was followed by Brittany Patterson and Lilani Lampa.

Issandro Malik scored the top place in the 5K men’s category while the second and third prizes went to Syed Hossaini and Akhil Subbarao, respectively.

“This is my fourth time at Sevathon. I started late but it ended up good,” Hossaini told India-West. “I am supporting SpaandanB, a non-profit organization that supports and implements projects in Bangladesh.”

Louisa Gomes took first spot in the 5K women’s category while Telaja Tapaswami and Supriya Khandekar placed second and third, respectively.

The big winner of the day was Raghuvir Sengupta, who took first place in the half-marathon, clocking 13.1 miles in one hour, 29 minutes and 47 seconds. He was closely followed by Alex Sanchez and Timothy Vago.

A first timer at Sevathon, Sengupta, who trained for ten weeks for the half-marathon, said the race was tough because of the heat, but the pain he experienced was well worth it. He won an EcoReco electric scooter; the winners each received a medal.

“It was pretty exciting as I started off really fast,” Sengupta told India-West after the long run. “I had a lead in the beginning, I got really tired towards the end, everything was blurry but I’m glad I made it. It’s really nice to come out and support the community.”

Marassa Lakshmi Kaneja came in first in the female division of the half-marathon.

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