In the dog days of May 2020, while many teens were stuck at home without summer jobs or internships, siblings Leena and Raja Mehendale started their nonprofit run2learn.
Missing their daily runs with friends and lamenting about finishing online school, the two were inspired to better their community through fitness and philanthropy.
Run2learn hosts 5K races to raise money for Dallas public elementary schools through United to Learn, an education management organization that works with 47 Dallas elementary schools and neighboring communities.
“Both of our parents always taught us that whenever you have an idea, you go for it. There’s nothing stopping you but yourself.”Leena Mehendale
The brother-sister-duo has organized two virtual 5K races so far, one in July and one in November. Run2learn has served more than 200 runners and raised $3,500.
Hockaday School junior Leena and St. Mark’s School of Texas freshman Raja said that the three pressing problems they are focused on solving are:
• Illiteracy at the elementary level;
• A lack of access to extracurricular activities;
• And, a scarcity of school supplies.
Leena said her aha moment to start run2learn happened while working with elementary students.
“I started tutoring third graders in Dallas ISD during my lunch period,” Leena said. “Those moments stuck with me, and I was like, ‘Oh, I want to keep doing this.’”
Thus, the idea for run2learn was born. Leena and Raja advertised through social media, persuaded their running club to sponsor run2learn, and launched the nonprofit, Leena said.
Their operation is comparable to other virtual running organizations: Participants register for a 5K, receive their bib numbers and swag in the mail, run (or walk) the distance on race day, and email their pictures and times to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The two agreed that their hard work culminated in a rewarding experience, as Leena and Raja sent their first check to United to Learn.
Their mother, Dr. Kim Mehendale, a pediatrician, said she commends her children’s business know-how.
“I’m impressed with the work that they’re doing behind the scenes and the research they’ve done to create the corporation, build a website, and collect money,” Kimberly said.
Raja said he wanted to use his passion and family’s good fortune to make a positive change.
Leena expanded on his point.
“Both of our parents always taught us that whenever you have an idea, you go for it,” she said. “There’s nothing stopping you but yourself.”
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