Easterseals’ 15th annual ‘Passage to India’ celebrates culture & healthcare workers

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EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – This year marks the 15th anniversary of “Passage to India.”

The annual fundraising event is hosted by Easterseals is highlighting the Asian-Indian culture in Central Illinois.

Co-chairs said this year’s theme focused on recognizing leaders in the Asian Indian community and how they’ve contributed to the healthcare field in the area.

Friday night’s event took place at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria. It marks the return of its in-person celebration after last year’s event was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dancing, the outfits, the colors, and the food contributed to the explosion of cultural visuals and flashy atmosphere that welcomed the Central Illinois community to come out and enjoy the evening.

“The Asian-Indian culture is just so beautiful, and it’s really on full display tonight,” Donna Cruz, one of the event’s co-chairs, said.

Dr. Sudhir Mungee, an interventional cardiologist and one of the event’s board members, said reaching 15 years for the event is a huge milestone and a testament to the level of community support it generates.

This is our 15th-year celebration to come together for a beautiful cause,” Mungee said. “The cause to give back to the community, and what better way than to be with the kids of Easterseals.”

Dr. Mungee said during these times, it’s especially important to note the work and dedication Easterseals provides to children with disabilities.

“Easterseals does a tremendous job in the community bringing the kids with special needs back to their good life and back to doing vocational work,” Mungee said.

Co-chairs for the event said those in the Asian Indian community have made immense contributions to the area’s healthcare sector, and they’re happy to acknowledge them in a way that also honors their culture.

“So many of the healthcare providers here in our community who helped to build our hospitals, our health systems, our medical school our Indian American, so it’s really wonderful to be able to recognize them here tonight,” Dr. Keith Knepp, President & CEO, UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois and one of the event’s co-chairs, said.

“I’m just excited that the healthcare community is supporting such an important cause and to have these clinicians recognize the importance of Easterseals and how they support families and those children who need the requirements to succeed and to be the best that they can be, it’s really an exciting time,” Dr. Michael Cruz, Chief Operating Officer at OSF- Healthcare and one of the co-chairs, said.

The co-chairs also said the event had a goal of raising more than $350,000 and, after seeing the support of the community, they said believe they’ll reach it.

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