A nonprofit organization founded by an Indian American 16-year-old student at The Harker School in San Jose, Calif., Sanjay Rajasekharan, with the mission to ensure that every child from an underprivileged family can wear proper shoes to school, thereby maximizing attendance, conducted a shoe donation event at the Oroville Hope Center in Oroville, Calif., Mar. 30. The organization raised funds and donated 60 pairs of new shoes to help the children from families affected by the recent California wildfires in Paradise and neighboring areas.

Rajasekharan founded Running4Shoes in 2016. He was intrigued to learn through his research that despite the economic prosperity of the U.S., about half the country cannot afford to provide basic needs, including providing school children with proper shoes to wear, and that providing shoes to children who can’t afford them can increase school attendance by 62 percent.

Rachel Cowan, director of Disaster Relief at the Oroville Hope Center, said, “It was heart-warming to see Sanjay at a such young age dedicate himself to the cause of providing shoes to school children in need and positively impact underprivileged communities.”

Eric Goossens, project manager for Habitat for Humanity Stanislaus County, and an Oroville Hope Center volunteer, added, “Sanjay’s dedication to raising awareness and donating shoes to school children in need is an excellent example of innovative thinking that will improve communities.”

Last December, Rajasekharan provided 490 pairs of shoes to schools in India: to the Sheila Kothavala Institute for the Deaf Rustom Bagh in Bangalore and the PGP School in Muthurayana Jeebi, Hosur.

Jessie Samuel from the Sheila Kothavala Institute for Deaf said, “It is wonderful to see how Sanjay at his tender age of 16 can be so foresighted with empathy in driving such a movement while kids his age are busy with different aspirations & gadgets.”

Added Nagaprasad from the PGP School: “It is the first time someone thought of something so noble & so many children of our school have benefitted, Sanjay and his team of volunteers are doing such a great job in bringing warm smiles on the faces of these children.” 

The organization in a blog said, “Many thanks to all the volunteers who did a phenomenal job in getting the measurement for the children's shoe sizes, and managing the logistics in buying quality shoes at a discount and delivering them to the school children. Our heartfelt gratitude to all the donors who contributed significant amounts to help this noble cause.”

Rajasekharan and the Running4Shoes volunteers received excellent support from Cleo Software, India, Pvt. Ltd., which was a key sponsor for the shoe donation events, and several employees from Cleo Software volunteered in a significant manner in helping the Running4Shoes team to coordinate and deliver shoes to the school children.

Rajasekharan is particularly interested in the intersection of life science and innovative technology, recently developing a diabetes simulator and exploring recent advances in genetic engineering, according to his bio on the running4shoes.org site.

He further leverages his coding expertise as the vice president of his school’s robotics team and as a software engineering intern at Cleo. During his free time, Rajasekharan partners with his community to collect and purchase shoes for school children in underprivileged communities, it said.

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