If you had passed by Pagewood Park in Dallas this past Sunday between 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., you would have seen dancing high schoolers armed with water guns while sporting white shirts splattered with colored powder. These students were celebrating Holi, a Hindu festival that welcomes spring with bright colors, and supporting the club Student Relations of India in their efforts to raise money for an underprivileged school in India.
The Holi event hosted by SRI was a culmination of year long planning by the club’s presidents and board members. Since SRI was started three years ago by Hockaday ’15 alumnae, Aashima Garg, Aanathi Reddy and Aneesha Bandarpalle, the club has always had two main projects: raising money for a donation and having a Holi celebration. SRI board member and sophomore Radhika Singh noted that the nine board members met often, starting in late October, and discussed these primary goals and ideas.
“Planning is difficult because you need to figure out how to generate revenue [to pay] for the festival before you can host it,” Singh said.
Ultimately, the board decided on a bake sale because it had worked well in past years. However, unlike years prior, SRI did not sell T-shirts for the club because there were many left from last year’s event. After deciding on how they were going to raise money, the club’s presidents decided where they wanted to place their donation. In previous years, the money raised went towards increasing awareness and preventing HIV/AIDS in India. However, co-president of SRI and junior Malini Naidu found inspiration in a school started by her great-grandmother in Andhra-Pradesh, India and decided on a different cause.
“I had a more personal connection with the school since I visited it over Christmas break and got to meet a lot of the kids. We want the money to go towards buying athletic gear and school supplies,” Naidu said.
With the charity chosen and the bake sale, which was to consist of baked goods provided by board members, set for April 13, the board set out to plan their second project: the Holi celebration. Starting in January, the club planned every aspect of the festival. They chose to continue many of last year’s practices and have the traditional colored powder thrown in Holi along with water guns, balloons, a raffle, a DJ and a station to get henna, a temporary tattoo that is a part of Indian culture. They also invited students of all Dallas private high schools. Unlike last year, they decided to change the location from Parish Episcopal School to Pagewood Park and bring in a food truck, Aloha Shaved Ice, which agreed to donate 20 percent of its proceeds to the cause.
The SRI Board used many of their own resources to execute the event. They reached out to junior Emma Siegel, who donated pieces from her jewelry line, Emma Louise Jewelry, to be used as raffle prizes, junior Sabah Shams, who served as a henna artist and sophomore Isabelle Haemisegger, who provided $100 of Northpark Gold as a prize. In addition, St. Mark’s students donated the colored Holi powder and signed up to DJ the event. With all of the contributions, the board only had to pay for water balloons and the other raffle prizes, which included gift sets, a pillow pet, a Raising Cane’s gift basket, a free SRI shirt from last year and Bundt cakes.
The SRI Holi celebration was planned for April 16, which was close to the actual Holi festival date, March 24, however, a conflicting event with the park caused co-president and junior Natalia Henry to move the date to May 1. The SRI Holi celebration drew in around 25 attendees, including the board, which was a low number for both Henry and Naidu.
“[The turnout] was really disappointing since we put so much time and money into the event. A lot of people had wanted to come, but I guess it was just a really inconvenient date,” Naidu said.
Although they wanted to have a bigger crowd, the co-presidents agreed that the event came together well. With students having fun while throwing colors at each other and raising money for a good cause, the board believed they had achieved the end goal of the club.
“The event was really fun and it is important because it raises money for causes in India that are very underfunded. We exposed people to Indian culture while helping people in India at the same time,” Henry and Naidu said.
With raffle tickets costing $2, an entrance fee of $3 and the proceeds from the bake sale, the SRI board raised $406 that will be given to Naidu’s uncle, converted into rupees, and donated to the school to cover costs. Although the event was successful in raising money this year, the board would like to do some things differently in the future. For next year, Singh would like to start planning earlier, advertise more and have the festival closer to the real date, but she wants the mission of SRI Holi to stay exactly the same.
“I have seen the kind of education and lives of kids in India. If I can help them get a better education so that they can improve their lives, then I will. Student Relations of India is a perfect way to help them,” she said.