PLAINSBORO: Rangeela raises $100K for March of Dimes

West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North was seeing purple and a large touch of green, about $100,000 worth, on Saturday night.

By Nicole M. Wells, Special Writer

PLAINSBORO — West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North was seeing purple and a large touch of green, about $100,000 worth, on Saturday night.
   Purple March of Dimes balloon arches festooned the school as the Mercer County Chain Reaction Youth Council hosted its annual display of cultural pageantry, Rangeela, and raised money for the March of Dimes.
   About 750 people came out to see the sold-out show, according to a Chain Reaction member.
   The Chain Reaction group surpassed its original goal of raising $75,000, to mark the 75th anniversary of the charity that fights birth defects.
   Originally operating in only the West Windsor-Plainsboro district, the youth organization with more than 20 members has grown to include high school students from throughout the county, including Robbinsville and Princeton high schools, Princeton Day School and SciCore Academy.
   During its time, the group has held various events for the March of Dimes and has raised around $500,000 not including Saturday’s event, according to the group.
   According to its website, the March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for maternal and infant health.
   Established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to combat polio, on the rise at that time, the research it funded led to vaccines for polio.
   The vaccines effectively ended the disease in the United States.
   Today, the March of Dimes works to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
   Youth group members filed into the auditorium, bearing the United States and Indian flags, and, after renditions of the American and Indian national anthems, a ceremonial lamp was lighted and the performances began.
   The jingling of bells could be heard from dancers’ anklets and sparkle and shine glittered from costumes and jewelry alike, as students from several local dance schools took to the stage to showcase their talents for the cause of neonatal health.
   South Asian radio personality Mamta Narula was master of ceremonies for the event.
   Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu and West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh were on hand, as well as state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14.
   Both mayors praised the youth and thanked them for the work the organization does.
   Rangeela, meaning “festival of colors,” was first organized in 2001 by West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North alum Rahul Bansal.
   Mr. Bansal, who is now 28 and working as an investment banker in San Francisco, started volunteering for the March of Dimes in 1997.
   ”My aunt had given birth to a stillborn baby and I was introduced to the mission of the March of Dimes,” Mr. Bansal said. “I realized it was a mission that I wanted to take on, given what had happened to my aunt.”
   Rangeela brings together people from central New Jersey, New York and Connecticut to celebrate the Indian culture as well as the mission of the March of Dimes, Mr. Bansal said.
   After the dancing, attendees were given a dinner buffet featuring Indian cuisine and catered by area restaurants Palace of Asia in Lawrenceville and The Pind in Kingston.
   The audience was then invited back into the auditorium for a musical performance by noted Indian artists Sunil Mungee and Gayatree Sarma.
   Chain Reaction newsletter co-editor and West Windsor-Plainsboro High School senior Akhil Parlapalli said the community response to Rangeela has been great.
   ”It’s amazing to share all these great things about everyone’s culture,” Akhil said. “A lot of people do really appreciate it.”