If ever you hear someone say they're 'worried about the next generation,' I implore you to tell them of Mr. Martand Bhagavatula.
Last fall, I received an email from Martand inquiring as to whether or not I'd be interested in participating with him in an upcoming 'Meet The Author' event. I would have been interested regardless, but I was doubly so after he told me more about himself and his non-profit organization, Kids And Smiles.
In 2011, Martand visited a local hospital to play his violin for pediatric patients. Afterward, he felt saddened the patients had so few "fun" things in their rooms and little opportunity to socialize with other children outside the hospital. Thus, Martand decided to found Kids And Smiles as a means of bringing joy to these patients and engaging the community.
Did I mention Martand was 8 when he decided to do this?
This young man is a rockstar, folks.
Since 2011, Martand and his organization have been organizing youth-run events. Rather than simply dropping off toys, kids organize and take part in social themed events, for example, a Halloween party or an Easter Egg Hunt. Events are free, and proceeds (toys, books, DVDs) are then delivered by the volunteers of Kids and Smiles to local hospitals. All cash donations (100%) are used to hold events, or purchase gifts for donations.
The patients they are trying to reach at the hospitals are typically in specialized pediatric units. These kids are too ill or technologically dependent to receive care at home or who need the constant supervision and services provided in a professional "sub-acute" health care environment.
I wanted to know more about Martand and Kids And Smiles, and he agreed to participate in a little Q&A. Here's what he had to say:
What is your favorite part about what you do?
Getting the entire community involved, as well as seeing the smiles on kids’ faces.
What’s been your favorite memory in all the good you’ve done over the last four years to help with bringing smiles to the kids on the pediatric units?
I don’t actually have a specific favorite memory, but one of the things I enjoy about the events and the visits are having my friends participate in organizing and volunteering, as our events are youth-run. Meeting new people at the events and at the hospitals is also something I enjoy.
How can readers of this interview help support Kids & Smiles?
ORGANIZE an event. We will help you!
HOLD a toy, book, or DVD drive. We will come pick up the items!
VOLUNTEER at an event. All events are youth-run!
Juggling school and your dedication to Kids & Smiles must keep you busy. How do you find the time?
It’s hard to predict sometimes with school when it will be busy. But I know the meetings, events, and visits for Kids and Smiles in advance. So when school is not that busy on a particular day or week, I can work on Kids and Smiles.
You’ve accomplished so much already. What’s next for you?
I would like to continue playing the violin in high school, make the high school basketball team, and become a doctor.
I cannot wait to meet Martand in person and partner with his organization this Sunday, March 6th at the St. Jude Medical Center's upcoming ShamRock 'n Run. The event takes place at Yorba Regional Park in Anaheim, California and kicks off at 8 a.m. Kids And Smiles will have a booth to collect donations for the pediatric patients and you can meet Martand, me, and several other authors in the Kids Zone. There will be live reads, book signings, and awesome times to go around. Come on out and say hey!
Author. Actor. Rascal.