WEST ORANGE, NJ — On Sunday, Sept. 13, the Nikhil Badlani Foundation kicked off its 10th annual STOP For Nikhil race. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was held virtually and featured an opportunity to run, walk or bike at any time throughout the following week. This event is held each year to raise traffic safety awareness and to remember and honor those who have been killed or seriously injured by automobile and truck collisions. This is the only race in New Jersey about traffic safety. All proceeds from the event will go toward raising awareness of traffic safety and nurturing the musical and academic talents of children in Essex County.
The virtual kickoff was livestreamed on the foundation’s Facebook page. The event was hosted by the founder and president of the foundation, Sangeeta Badlani, Nikhil’s mother.
U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, the keynote speaker of the event, told the Badlani family, “I encourage everyone to follow your example, which shows how grassroots organizations and advocacy can change policy and transform lives.”
Sherrill further added that her office is considering proposing legislation to support programs such as Vision Zero in cities across the country and provide federal funding to these cities. Her office will work with the Nikhil Badlani Foundation on the federal legislation.
Sangeeta Badlani then asked Assemblyman John McKeon if he thought Vision Zero was an achievable goal for New Jersey.
“It is a goal,” McKeon said, “something to strive for.” He suggested including Vision Zero language in the pedestrian safety legislation that state Sen. Teresa Ruiz is sponsoring.
McKeon, who championed Nikhil’s Law, emphasized that more than half a million people have taken the STOP For Nikhil safety pledge since 2015 as a result of the passing of Nikhil’s Law, which provides those seeking a N.J. driver’s license with the option of signing the pledge.
The Badlani family was also joined by West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi, West Orange Superintendent of Schools Scott Cascone and West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore.
The ceremony ended with Badlani presenting the Nikhil Badlani Foundation Inspiration Award to Betty Dubinin for establishing the next-of-kin registry in the event of a crash. Dubinin’s 19-year-old daughter, Sara, was killed in a car crash. Sara Dubinin’s family was not notified until an hour and a half after the crash, by which time Sara Dubinin had slipped into a coma. Badlani praised Betty Dubinin for her tireless work to connect loved ones quickly in a time of crisis.
STOP For Nikhil 2020 ended Sept. 20, though donations are welcome through Sept. 30. This is the only fundraiser that supports the programs offered by the Nikhil Badlani Foundation. For more information, visit http://stopfornikhil.org.
Photos Courtesy of Sangeeta Badlani