LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Indian communities in Manatee and Sarasota counties want to gather the larger community beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday to raise money for victims of the Nepal earthquakes and aftershocks beginning April 25.
So far, there are more than 8,500 victims, making it the deadliest disaster on record for the country surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains.
The Gujarati Association of Manasota and the Indian Association of Manatee and Sarasota, two nonprofit organizations that sponsor the Manasota India Festival in Palmetto, have invited the public to join in a walk to raise money to help earthquake survivors get food, water, clothing and medicine.
Walk for Nepal will take place on Lakewood Ranch Park's soccer fields, 5350 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., near Lakewood Ranch High School.
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed and injured thousands and demolishing mountain homes between In
dia and China in South-Central Asia making rescue and relief efforts extremely difficult. A second major earthquake struck the country a few days later, causing more destruction and death.
"We hope to raise as much money as we can and we hope that people will come and support us and bring their friends," said Rina Patel, organizer of the walk and president of the Gujarati Association of Manasota.
Registration is $5 at the pavilion on the soccer field. Donations are encouraged.
Patel said the average monthly income in Nepal is $125 and a $5 donation will feed a family for a week. The United Nation's Flash Appeal is working to raise $415 million for humanitarian needs.
"One round of the field is almost a mile. Three rounds is about three miles -- a 5K walk," Patel said. "People can walk as much as they want to or they can run the distance. We're in the process of getting sponsors to donate water and snacks for our runners."
All donations collected from the Walk for Nepal, including group pledges from companies and organizations, will be sent through the Red Cross, Shelterbox USA, headquartered in Lakewood Ranch, and several other local charities.
Mutka Sharma, who has ties to the Manasota Indian community, said her family was displaced in Nepal's first earthquake.
"My family is living in a tent outside their home. The situation is so sad. They are afraid of the aftershocks. When I called my mom, she couldn't stop crying, but they are OK," Sharma said Tuesday. "I haven't heard from my friend, who is missing, and it's been a month. I still hope she's alive."
Sharma and her husband are collecting donations for Nepal relief through a fund online at gofundme.com/TPANepalEarthquake. So far, they've collected $32 in 22 days.
Information: Call Rina Patel at 941-518-3462.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @Moschellaherald.