Hindu Campsite Fundraiser a $5.6 MM Investment in Community’s Future Generations

Subhash, Saroj Gupta Make Initial $1.7 million Donation

Four youth co-chairs Bharat Pallod, Rishi Bhutada with Sarojini and Subhash Gupta (Event Chair), Nikita Malani Shukla, Maneesh Mehra, and comedian Raji Satyal.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: The South Asian community across the nation has been growing at a fast clip as also in Texas. But nowhere has the community been as active in the past decade – COVID notwithstanding – as it has been in the Houston area. It is not only in the typical draw for new immigrants – religious places of worship – but the attention has turned to building institutions that can serve generations to come.

Of these, an idea that has percolated in the minds of elders has been to merge religious teachings with cultural assimilation of Indian values within the context of the mainstream American landscape we all live in.

Youth volunteers. From top left: Sahib Chandnani, Rishi Chandnani, Shamal Shah, Kajal Amin, Shivangi Dixit, Hetali Trivedi, Srushti Gaikawari, Bharat Pallod, From bottom left: Smit Shah, Aman Patel, Sumeet Parikh, Parth Dargan, Ranjan Veludandi, Vivek Shukla, and Nirali Shah

The result has been the Hindu Heritage Youth Camp which has been catering to young kids for the past 39 years with activities each year at different campsites in the region. Over 5,000 youth have attended the HHYC in over 39 years. The need for the camp is overwhelming as 600 applications are received each year and only 200 are accepted.

Just three years ago, these same elders led the effort to buy their own site near Columbus, with initial seed money coming from a generous $ 1.7 million donation by benefactors Subhash and Saroj Gupta.

Event Chair Subhash and Sarojini Gupta donated $1.7 million.

A first-ever fundraiser was held for the Texas Hindu Campsite this past Sunday, October 1 at a sold-out event for 725 people at the GSHS Event Center on West Bellfort. Dinner was catered by Dawat Catering. The Gala Co-Chairs were Maneesh Mehra, Bharat Pallod, Rishi Bhutada and Nikki Malani Shukla, all past Youth Camp Directors who have been involved with the camp since childhood.

The campsite is projected to cost close to $5.6 million and Phase one is underway. The plan includes multipurpose building, theater, cabins for campers, kitchen, swimming pool, basketball court, soccer field, outdoor amphitheater, lake, and walking trails. The goal is to host the first youth camp in the summer of 2024. The campsite could also be utilized for a variety of events, every temple and other organizations for their retreats for youth and adults, corporate retreats, and family gatherings.

Gala Chairs, Subhash and Saroj Gupta spoke passionately about this project and how “Every child should be able to attend and no one should be denied the opportunity of this valuable life enhancing experience”.

Los Angeles Comedian Rajiv Satyal

Subash Gupta thanked the Baru Goyal Family, Ashok Danda family and Vijay Pallod Family for joining him in purchasing the land for the First Hindu Campsite.

Ramesh Bhutada, CEO of Star Pipe Products, in his video message, urged everyone to contribute to the cause as we are far from India, and the camp is a way to educate the youth and develop their Hindu identity. He generously has donated $1 million for this cause and his son Rishi Bhutada gave a further $100,000.

Sushma Pallod spoke about how the youth make friends for life at these camps. She also narrated the need for having our own camp site considering development of future generations. She has been the “Camp Chef” for the past 26 years, organizing the complete meal schedule for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. She is fondly known as “Maa Annapurana”.

The Pallod family has been involved with the camp for 36 years and donated over $300,000. Vijay and Sushma Pallod and their children, Bharat, Kavita and Namita – who all have been camp directors – have been dedicated volunteers year after year in various capacities.

Event coordinator and Emcee Manisha Gandhi

The event featured entertainment by Krishna Gana Sudha Music Academy under the direction of Vidushi Rajesshwary Bhat who opened the event with World Peace Prayer – beautiful chants of Vedic prayers. A vibrant dance performance followed by students of the Shri Natraj School of Dance and choreographed by founder Kusum Sharma.

A star attraction was Rajiv Satyal, comedian from Los Angeles, who had the crowd roaring with laughter. He was the emcee for PM Modi’s welcome reception in San Jose, California in 2015.

Puja Bhuta, a 13-year-old camper gave testimony of her experience at the camp and Partha Dargan also spoke about his many years of attending the camp, as a camper, counselor and now a camp director.

Dr. Nikita Malani Shukla, spoke about how attending the camp since childhood gave her a great foundation of Hindu values and second generation in the USA, regardless of becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers and any profession they choose, are able to implement the values they have learned. The Malani Family Foundation generously donated $500,000 to the campsite project.

Sushma Pallod camp Chef for over 25 years.

A generational walk showcased seven families of three generations who have participated in the HHYC, with many young grandchildren who will be future campers. The seven families  are of Suresh Patel, first camp director and founding member; Usha Mehra; Vijay Pallod; Dilip Mehta founding member; Gopal Agarwal; Neelam Verma and Kiran Bhutada.

This event brought many 15 temples and organizations from the Greater Houston Community together to participate for “OUR” campsite, a place for all for generations to come!  The Arya Samaj donated $150,000, VHPA $50,000, HSS $25,000.

The event was coordinated and emceed by Manisha Gandhi. She  was a camp counselor in the early years of the camp and her son Manan  was a camper and a counselor in recent years.

Texas Hindu Campsite will serve many future generations to educate these children about culture, heritage, and Hindu values. It will help build a foundation of dharma. It is located at 1655 Smith Rau Road, Columbus, TX 78934 . For more information visit https://www.texashinducampsite.org.