Two Arizona teenagers are doing their part to spread holiday cheer this year by sending cards to people living in veterans homes across the state.
Brothers Hurshneet Chadha, 16, and Pravneet Chadha, 13, have created and shipped cards to more than 450 veterans in hopes of making their holiday season a little brighter. But this is far from the brothers' first philanthropic endeavor: They started a non-profit after the COVID-19 pandemic hit to try to cheer up people who were hospitalized and isolated from their families.
"Both our parents are doctors and they had seen firsthand the isolation and changing visitor policies in the hospital," Hurshneet tells Yahoo Life. "[They] shared that hospitals were a lonely place to be during COVID times."
Hurshneet says that he and Pravneet "wanted to bring smiles to those who could not see their family members." So, they started writing motivational messages and sending them to patients. "This became our way of fighting the pandemic, with one motivational message at a time," Pravneet tells Yahoo Life.
This became our way of fighting the pandemic, with one motivational message at a time."Pravneet Chadha
The brothers ended up forming a non-profit called Project AZ Smile to do even more philanthropic works. "We have so far shared more than 8,500 cards," Pravneet says. Some recipients have shared their appreciation on Instagram.
"Just wanted to tell you, when my hubs @secretharbormusic was in Mayo hospital with COVID last November, the card you delivered made ALL THE DIFFERENCE," one person wrote. "It helped us feel connected again while he was in isolation and helped us realize we could deliver gift baskets or cards to people with COVID and help turn their emotions to a positive thought that would help them find more courage to heal. We’ve tried to pay forward the love you showed to us strangers over and over since."
The teens aren't just writing cards — they've expanded to do other projects, too.
That includes creating and sending dental care kits to homeless organizations, a mask drive, a food drive and, more recently, collecting more than 1,500 gently-used books and delivering them to children who participate in the Welcome to America Project, an organization that helps refugees get settled in Arizona.
"We usually connect and network with a lot of philanthropic organizations through our social media and learn about ongoing needs in the community by watching the news and talking with others," Hurshneet says. Other people have chipped in, too, he says. "When we started making the cards, we got donations after people saw our news on TV and they donated a lot of supplies," he says. "We realized these supplies could be used to make kits for kids who would like to help join us and bring them joy, too."
Pravneet says the family has also received individual requests "from people who are unable to afford supplies or cannot go out due to their medical condition and wish to make cards from home."
The dental drive idea "came after we visited our dentist and had these toothbrush kits that we barely used," Hurshneet says. "We thought, 'Why not share it with someone in need?'"
The brothers say the idea for collecting and donating books came after they did some spring cleaning at home. "We realized we collected so many books last year when we were in an online school that we had tons of gently used books," Pravneet says. "When we posted on our social media, we got hundreds of books from people near and far, including Boys & Girls Clubs, NHS, Scouts, and church groups. We even got books from cartoonist Lark Pien for our book drive."
The brothers' mother, Manpreet Chadha, tells Yahoo Life that she's "truly impressed" with what her sons have achieved. "They have taken a simple thought to a big project," she says. "I have learned so much from them by how they plan and come up with new ideas and bring together volunteers near and far."
Manpreet says that Project Smile AZ has been her sons' endeavor and that she and the rest of her family have helped by, "mostly encouraging them to do what they want and a lot of driving."
Hurshneet and Pravneet are both in school, but Pravneet says they work on their nonprofit around their studies and other extracurriculars. "We usually work 30 minutes every day and a few hours every weekend," he says. "We don't consider it work — we just do it to be happy."
Overall, Hurshneet says he and his brother hope "to be able to motivate anyone, any age" to do good works, too. If you want to help support Project AZ Smile, visit their website to volunteer.
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