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Now in its third year, the Bay Area’s premier walkathon, Sevathon, is predicted to be bigger than ever in 2011. Following in Gandhi’s footsteps and in the noble tradition of seva, or “service given without consideration of anything in return,” over 2,000 participants are expected to walk or run the 5K, 10K, or half-marathon course for their choice of over 40 Bay Area nonprofits.

“Last year was a banner year for us,” says Raju Reddy, chair of Sevathon 2011. “We are looking to increase our attendance from over 1,500 to 2,400.”

Ignited by a pre-event torch ceremony traveling across cities of the Bay Area, the spirit of the event has spread across the counties, its light representing that brought to so many lives through the efforts of nonprofit organizations and their thousands of members working tirelessly throughout the year. Nonprofit partners with Sevathon are committed to combating a multitude of global issues plaguing society such as domestic violence, curable blindness, homelessness, and illiteracy.

“Sevathon nonprofits are working across the globe, from villages in Africa to the rural heartlands of India to right here serving the Indian diaspora in America,” says Reddy.

There are an overwhelming number of heart-warming stories, each owing its success, at least in part, to proceeds raised by Sevathon over the years. One example is the work of Home of Hope Inc., founded by Bay Area physician Nilima Sabharwal in 1999. Inspired by a group of dedicated women volunteers at a children’s orphanage, her organization now supports over a dozen projects throughout India. One hundred children of the tiny fishing village Karaikal, in South India, were orphaned survivors of the 2004 tsunami and now count themselves as fortunate beneficiaries of food, water, medicine, and education from Home of Hope. By nurturing destitute children the organization is committed to ensuring their futures as self-sustaining members of society.

Globally, 80 percent of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured, and another of Sevathon’s partners, the Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF), is playing an important part in providing preventative and curative treatment for thousands of patients who would otherwise suffer from blindness. Its pledge is simple yet far reaching: to provide quality healthcare to all, regardless of socio-economic considerations and, above all, to provide such care with empathy. The organization is associated with a number of rural outreach programs across India that target individuals suffering from eye disease and visual ailments such as cataract.

As of November 2010, 663,004 vision-restoring surgeries had been performed with a 99 percent success rate, and thousands  are screened each year. As well as providing screening and curative care for the elderly, the SEF considers early intervention critical to the prevention of visual defects, with screening programs targeting infants and preschoolers with the hope of eliminating barriers to early childhood learning and development.

Sevathon reports that it has already received huge support from children and youths who are volunteering and participating in fundraising in unprecedented numbers. While providing immediate support to worthy nonprofits, Sevathon is also encouraging future generations of socially responsible citizens and spreading the message of compassion and seva.

A cultural extravaganza and food fair will feature alongside the walkathon.
Mark your calendar and join a cause, the only question left to be decided is, ‘What will you walk for?”

Sunday, July 17, 7 a.m. Baylands Park, Sunnyvale. Register: www.indiacc.org.

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