Stars Shine bright for less privileged kids & youth

The Times of India (05 June 2016)

On Friday night, the Virat Kohli Foundation and Smile Foundation, both of which work with underprivileged kids, hosted a star-studded charity dinner at Hyatt Regency, which was attended by cricketers Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Ajinkya Rahane, the scion of the Ambani family, Akash, and actress Divya Khosla Kumar, who was named ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ of Smile Foundation.

Virat Kohli walked the red carpet before posing with children from Smile. “The soul behind this initiative is to raise awareness and support the cause of education and skill training for the thousands of less-privileged children and youth in India,” he explained why the two organisations have joined hands.

The five-course dinner, curated by Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna, was complemented with performances by ‘Krazy Konnection’ singer Armaan Malik, Neeti Mohan, winner of Channel V’s show ‘Popstars’, and the creation of sand art by Nitish Bharti. About 30 kids from Smile attended the glitzy event – they walked the ramp with celebrities, participated in performances with Mohan and dancer-choreographer Sandip Soparrkar and a lucky few even danced with the ace cricketers. The entertainment was followed by a charity auction of high-end luxury products and cricket memorabilia that raised Rs 30 lakh.

Smile Foundation aims to empower the youth by running education and skill-training initiatives and providing proper nutrition. They claim to benefit about 4 lakh youth and their families. “We appreciate the philanthropic activities of the Virat Kohli Foundation,” wrote co-founder and executive trustee of Smile, Santanu Mishra. He adds that Kohli’s support, “strengthens our resolve” to reach out to other youngsters struggling to break free from poverty.

At the event, TOI met 15-year-old Neha Kapoor, who is part of Smile. She claims her grades improved dramatically after she began attending their after-school classes. The organisation also conducts art, dance and singing programmes – 11-year-old artist Yash Remje proudly labels a ‘Pokemon’ cartoon, which he sketched at their centre, as his best work.