MONROE – The parents of a teenager who died from pediatric cancer received a proclamation from the township’s mayor naming May 19, 2019, Om Parikh Day.
The proclamation’s day declaration times with the second Om Foundation’s Om Memorial 5K Run and 1-Mile Walk in honor of Om Parikh on May 19 at Thompson Park.
Om Parikh was a 13-year-old middle school student when he died on Feb. 7, 2018, after a three-year, off and on battle with a rare form of a brain tumor called oligodendroglioma.
“I think having a proclamation of his day, and it's the same day when we are doing his memorial 5K, helps us in extending [the] message,” said Ketul Parikh, Om’s father on Tuesday.
The message is optimism. Through the Om Foundation, the Parikhs work with local public institutions to foster that idea to keep Om’s spirit and legacy alive. The foundation also created the Om Parikh Memorial Award for Optimism at the middle school last year. This financial award goes to an eighth-grade student who creates a positive and optimistic atmosphere and a desire to improve the world around them.
“If we can get 5 percent [of students at] the middle school and then they go to high school and then college take [Om’s optimism] with them they will change the environment, which will reduce some of the challenges we are seeing, like bullying, gun violence and drugs,” Ketul Parikh said. “I think that would be a legacy of Om and also I think somewhere in there we are hoping that the children learn how to deal with adversity and still respect the time, which is the most important thing, the time [they have] on this planet and enjoy no matter what the situation is.”
Community support making a difference
The first Om 5K was last year had approximately 1,500 participants, and received support from local institutions, including Monroe Indians for Civic Action, which organized the run and walk. The event also received support from the school district, township and Middlesex County.
“Amazing. It’s just amazing. We are so thankful to be part of the Monroe community. It’s so humbling,” Ketul Parikh said. “You know, we all have our differences, but we don’t see it, we’ve always seen the support.”
This year’s event is on track to have around 1,500 participants. It also has approximately 150 to 200 volunteers.
“This is turning into people are coming because they believe in the community,” Ketul Parikh said. “They believe in what this [event] is about as well as enjoying it.”
As side from keeping Om’s memory and spirit alive, event proceeds will benefit Om Foundation’s charitable services, such as the optimism award.
The event, which Monroe Indians for Civic Action is again organizing, starts at 7:30 a.m. at Thompson Park. Registration is still open. To register, visit runsignup.com/om. Emmy nominated singer, songwriter, rapper and inspirational speaker, Sparsh Shah, is the Grand Ambassador.
“Initially, we thought that we stay positive with this and all of that stuff. But what we learned at the time that he left, I think the message was this is more about who is here,” Ketul Parikh said. “It is helping us cope with the situation, because the satisfaction, that happiness, that comes with simply being part of making a change or helping improve things around us is what I think is helping us and hoping it would help everybody in a community that is engaged with it. I think [it's about] just seeing it differently, and cherishing the time that we have.”