Walking means more than transportation to Rahul Bansal, an 18-year-old from Plainsboro, New Jersey. For Rahul, walking was the door to a whole new world—helping others.
Being Bored to Being a Hero
It all started in a 7th grade study hall when Rahul wasn't busy doing homework. His teacher asked him to help her fill in forms for a walk-a-thon called WalkAmerica that was coming up. WalkAmerica raises money for the March of Dimes, a group that improves the health of babies by preventing birth defects (problems that happen while a baby is developing inside the mother) and other things that can cause babies to die. After he finished filling out the forms, he started reading the information about the March of Dimes attached to them. Then, he took the first step—he decided to give WalkAmerica a try.
He set a goal to raise $100, but by the time Walk day came around, he had raised $1,000! Later that year, a baby in Rahul's family died. Now the March of Dimes mission really meant something to him, and he was determined to help.
Rahul kept doing WalkAmerica. Then, one summer, the March of Dimes sent him to a special youth conference for active volunteers. He reports, "The speakers were out of this world. I came back a different person." When he got home, Rahul started a branch of Chain Reaction, the March of Dimes' youth club, with a girl he met at the conference. That fall, they held a breakfast at school to teach kids about folic acid, a vitamin that women should take to prevent problems with their babies' spinal cords. "I make it a point to educate as much as I fundraise," he explains. The next year, Rahul put on a multicultural show at his school. 700 people paid to see singers, jazz musicians, and more...and the money went to help the March of Dimes. A year later, 900 people came and he raised $23,000!
By doing WalkAmerica for the last 6 years, Rahul has raised $76,000 for the March of Dimes. He has spent close to 1,800 hours of his life volunteering...that's equal to 75 whole days and nights! He says, "Really I feel like I've received far more than what I've given. Just the personal satisfaction and the fulfillment that comes from giving far exceeds all the time and effort I spend doing everything. I want every baby to enter this world with the opportunities I had and the chance to be healthy. I'm so fortunate to be given everything I need. It really makes you feel good that you're making a difference, that you can change somebody's life, give babies the opportunity to live, and add to the research that's going on in the world."
Why Am I Doing This?
Rahul can't lie...fundraising is hard sometimes. "I come across many people who are very rude and very abrupt. Sometimes I think, 'Why am I doing this? I'm trying to help someone else and I'm getting kicked in the face.' But there are more people who want to give than don't. So there's no point in giving up. You're going to come across those people once in a while, and you just have to move on."
The Joy of Serving Others
Rahul is going to college next year, where he'll study business. He has already learned some business savvy through his fundraising work—putting events together, speaking to businesses, work with a group called Future Business Leaders of America, figuring out how donations affect taxes—so he's ready...and totally psyched!
Rahul believes that "no joy can equal the joy of serving others." Want to get involved? Here's what to do. "Get educated about what you're doing. Be knowledgeable so when somebody asks you about something, you know it. You have to have a lot of commitment and passion. It's good to get a couple of friends and start volunteering together. Brainstorm fundraising activities and just go from there!"
more info on walking!