Pongal-Republic Day 2013

Event Summary Report

We are proud to announce that Bighelp for Education celebrated its tenth anniversary at the annual Pongal-Republic Day celebrations on January 5 2013. From the tentative and modest beginning in 2002, we have come a long way as shown clearly by the ever-increasing number of kids being benefitted by Bighelp. This decade in service was made possible by our dedicated volunteers and generous sponsors. Held at the ever-welcoming Canton High School, Bighelp celebrated its tenth anniversary with nearly 1400 people with good cheer carried over from the holiday season and barely-contained anticipation for Pongal festival and Indian Republic Day celebrations.

Even the weather caught the charitable spirit and decided to play nice, so the day started out as nice as can be for January. It was cool, but sunny and the snow offered a picturesque view of grounds as the bee contestants awaited their tests at 11:30am. As per Bighelp’s tradition, the event was kicked off with Math and Spelling bee contests. Nearly 400 bright kids entered into these competitions at levels defined by their grades. Parents anxiously awaited by the doors of the cafeteria, straining to catch a peek at their hardworking child. Nerves were high when the kids advancing to the next round were announced and shot through the roof during the many tie breaker sessions. While the judges went to score the tests, kids relieved at their dismissal, headed straight for the snack counter to get a little sustenance or to treat themselves. There, they passed by several Greenhelp members who were putting up various recycling signs. ‘Help Bighelp, Go Green!’ they read. ‘Please recycle!’ they urged. Among them were Raga Chilakamarri, Deepti Kamma, Navya Peddireddy, and Meghana Tallam.

By this time, there was a general bustle in the main hall. Stalls were gaining quite some much-deserved attention, with their glittering jewelry and beautiful artwork. Charity organizations struck up conversations with the passerby. The registration desk was extremely busy registering cultural event participants. Volunteers were running here and there, to ensure the event ran smoothly. YouthHelp volunteers spread themselves out, trying to help the adults. The coloring and art competition entries were hung up in the corridor, like jewels on a cardboard piece. The kids looked for their entires, and reveled in comments like ‘Ooh, that one is so pretty…’, ‘I think this one will win…’, ‘No, this one…’. The Rangoli competition incited a fierce creativity battle among the adult participants and produced several colorful and deftly done entries that left the audience spell-bound.

Meanwhile, in the auditorium, Professor Anil Saigal kept the early audiences captivated with his presentation on ‘College Admissions Process’. Many parents, along with their high school kids, attended this educational talk. Simultaneously, the cultural team, MCs, and performers began their preparations backstage.

As activities outside began to wind down, focus shifted to the cultural performances. They started off with a welcome address by Executive Vice President, Mr. Amar Jayam. He thanked the audience for attending, and introduced the YouthHelp members who would serve as the (MCs) emcees for that evening: Yagna Gonada, Iman Nandi, Sana Pasha Shaik, Satya Gandham,Sarika Pokala, and Abhiram Rao. Renditions of ‘Vande Mataram’ and the US National Anthem by YouthHelp members and various children began the evening celebrations. It is hard to highlight all of the amazing performances that were seen on the stage. People from pre-school age to adults participated in the stage performances. Folk dances with colorful costumes and fast beats had the audience clapping along. Vocal performances quieted the audience as the performers let their voices fill the room. Traditional classical dances held the people captivated by their graceful movements and expressions. Patriotic performances left a warm resonance in the hearts of many, as all Indians felt a fierce pride for their country and its people. The President himself, Mr. Chand Pasha Shaik, took to the stage in a patriotic medley that brought the audience to its feet, yelling for an encore. Another major highlight was the item ‘Mana Pandaga’, which led the audience through a Telugu village during the Pongal season. With the cute kids in simple, creative costumes and props, it gave the event a new, creative twist. All of the performances were well-done and amazing in their own way, and the audience was kept entertained every minute despite a couple of small technical difficulties.

The festivities also featured a speech by BigHelp’s President, Mr. Chand Pasha Shaik. He highlighted BigHelp’s progress through the past ten years as an organization and this was captured nicely in a show reel as well. He thanked all of the donors, sponsors, and volunteers for making the organization possible and for helping to run it smoothly. He announced the adult Volunteer of the Year awards and the youth Raising Star awards. This special year, the adult recipients for the Volunteer of the Year were Mrs. Rekha and Mr. Sreenivas Gundimeda, Mrs. Anita Bachina and Mr. Sreenivas Maddineni, Mrs. Anjani and Mr. Srinivas Batchu, and Mr. Santosh Sapkal. The Raising Star awards, given to youth that make a considerable contribution to the organization, went to Shalini and Jabili Kandula, and Suhruth Vuppala. The Kandula sisters, who had raised about $10,000 from their dance Arangetram in Sep 2012, then proceeded to surprise the audience with an impromptu dance recital, which they performed with grace and beauty that matched their amazing generosity.

After the last of the performances, Mr. Chand Pasha Shaik invited all the grandparents in the audience to come on to the stage to help with acknowledging and felicitating the winners of all competitions. The older generation stood by the children and presented them with their hard-won awards and showered them with much-deserved blessings. This was one of the many heart-warming incidents that were part of the celebrations. The auditorium programs concluded with the audience joining the volunteers for a beautiful rendition of the Indian national anthem.

Already, there was a long line into the cafeteria, where tables of food were laid out. Delicious curries, rice, and mouth-watering pickles and assortments were all specially brought in by around 110 volunteer families. As the food was made with great care and a lot of love, it was very appealing and was gone within a short time. The cafeteria provided great acoustics for the mingling conversations and overlapping good wishes amongst the crowd. The GreenHelp team once again rolled up their sleeves, and carried on with their message on recycling. They took to singing songs and went around to the various tables to personally urge people to join the recycling initiative. Their diligent efforts prevented 145 plastic water bottles and 65 soda cans from being discarded in trash. All in all, it was a great ending to a fantastic day. It was a milestone moment for the BigHelp organization, and we are glad to have had many people celebrate with us…Hope to see you next year!