An Optimistic Teen’s Legacy Sparks Change for Other Pediatric Cancer Patients
Updated: Jan 21
Getting diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer at the age of 10 years old, going out of state to receive radiation treatments at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and undergoing several tumor removal surgeries: this was the life of pediatric cancer patient, Om Parikh. In the midst of facing a life-threatening disease, “Optimistic Om” always managed to encounter this unexpected cancer diagnosis with an inspiring amount of bravery and exuded a positive attitude, despite the obstacles he was facing at the time.
After passing from his three-year-long battle with oligodendroglioma, the Parikh family wanted to help spread Om’s legacy and prevent cancer in other pediatric patients. Along with the help of sponsors and volunteers, they organized a 5K event where donations are being used to fund further research regarding pediatric cancers. This year, donations exceeded $66,000 and they hope to use this not only for research, but also preventative programs about cancer and financial aid.
In anticipation of the event, volunteers set up Thompson Park by preparing breakfast foods, transporting water bottles, setting up tents, packaging sponsorship plaques, and more. As the event started, Sparsh Shah-this year’s grand ambassador-shared a speech regarding what he believes to be the three steps towards selfless service. He also performed Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, noting that the song encompasses his message of losing yourself in the service of others.
Watch his full speech here:
Nazli Mohideen Krupa and Yashaswi Parikh embrace sponsors who helped in the advertising of this year’s 5K event.
Mayor Tamburro along with Christine Vizsoki and James Higgins of Monroe Township Middle School, Robert Goodall of Monroe Township School District, and Yashaswi Parikh-older sister of Om Parikh-also shared speeches saying that they hope this annual event promotes positivity among Monroe residents. Concluding these speeches, sponsors were awarded with plaques for their support in funding the event. Selective students from Monroe Township Middle School also performed the National Anthem which was conducted by chorus director, Nina Schmetterer.
May 19th-the day in which the 5K has been held on for the past two years-was recently pronounced as being Om Parikh Day. Yashaswi shared,
Having May 19th be proclaimed as Om Parikh Day by Mayor Tamburro was so emotional and it is amazing to see Om and his legacy being honored in so many different ways.
Mayor Tamburro awarded Monroe Township Middle School students with medals for helping honor Om in the form of positive messages, gratitude boxes, writing cards to hospitalized children, among other projects.
Nazli Mohideen Mayor Tamburro along with the Parikh family presented leadership ambassadors from Monroe Township Middle School with awards (left to right: Shawn Kathuria, Angeline Thomas, Jennah Ayoubi, and Hailey Awad).
Team Senators also held a “Month of Optimism” in February of 2019-marking the month of Om’s first death anniversary-where they decorated a bulletin board dedicated to the cause along with sharing messages of positivity daily. In regards to the 5K this year, Team Senators students also helped wrap water bottles with inspirational quotes and paint rocks with positive affirmations. By doing so, they hope to spread a smile to community members and inspire others!
In addition to having middle school students be involved with the planning of the 5K event, Ketul Parikh-father of Om Parikh-commented,
“[The] Om Foundation will be focusing on our recently formed partnership with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. We are developing cancer research and education programs for students to get involved with, so that they can learn about the cause and prevention of cancer.”
As the 1M walk and 5K began, a recording of Om’s voice started the race. The crowd energetically walked and completed the 5K race; people both young and old came out to participate! During the race, the Hidden Gems performed some of Om’s favorite songs such as “Geronimo” by Sheppard and We Are Young by Fun. ft. Janelle Monáe. The Hidden Gems also performed a specially-written song dedicated to Krupa Parikh.
Volunteers lined the race’s path and helped navigate the runners throughout the course. Participants finished at remarkable times with some people in their age category being as young as seven-years-old! However, the overall female and male winners of the 5K run were acknowledged to Andrew Dargan with a time of 17:45 and Kinjal Parikh with a time of 18:48.
With nearly 1,500 walkers, runners, and volunteers, the Parikh family remains eternally grateful for the immense support the community has shown towards the cause of the foundation and are hopeful that they will continue to share Om’s positive energy in upcoming 5k events.