Manchester-based Aneeshwar Kunchala initiated a cycling challenge to raise money, which eventually roped in 57 other kids as well.

Aneeshwar Kunchala an indian origin Telugu boy from Andhra Pradesh in the UK holding up the Indian flag
news Human interest Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - 16:26

Little Aneeshwar Kunchala was watching television at his home in Warrington, Manchester one day when he saw Captain Tom Moore, a centenarian war veteran in the UK on the news. Tom was doing a challenge – he would walk 100 laps in his garden in hopes to raise money for the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. He ultimately managed to raise a whopping £15 million.

Five-year-old Aneeshwar was curious and when his father explained to him what the old man was doing and why, the boy also wanted to contribute. This was in April. And contribute he did – with two separate challenges, Aneesh managed to raise around £3,000 for the NHS and Rs 3.7 lakh for doctors in India, who are at the frontlines of the country’s battle with coronavirus, to get personal protection equipment (PPE).

Speaking to TNM, Aneesh’s father Anil Kunchala – who hails from Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh – says that the little boy was inspired by Captain Tom and decided to learn cricket and do a ‘10 days 1000 hits’ challenge from the safety of his own garden to raise money for the NHS. Anil and his wife Sneha Valmeti set up a crowdfunding campaign, and Aneesh’s attempts at the challenge were shared by the couple on their social media to popularise the fundraiser.

“Aneesh was born and brought up here but he has a strong connect with India. We go to Chittoor at least once a year for around a month to visit my parents. So, he knows where he comes from. Whenever we had video calls with my parents and in-laws, Aneesh learnt of the lockdown situation in India. After the cricket challenge, he wanted to do something for India as well,” Anil narrates.

And so, the ‘Little pedallers’ challenge was born. However, he wanted to involve his friends too, so the challenge became ‘Little pedallers Aneesh and his friends’, complete with a Facebook page to its name. Aneesh and 57 other kids – some from the US and India – joined in to cycle and raise awareness about the fundraiser set up on Give India for this purpose in May.

Together, the kids cycled around 4,500 kilometres in all. What’s more – Aneesh, who was cycling with stabilisers initially, didn’t need them anymore by the end of the challenge. “Every day, he would cycle around 5-7 kilometres which took around 45 minutes to an hour,” Anil says. “We had only reach out to 4-5 people we knew to join in with their kids in this challenge. But as word spread, other kids joined in… in the end, we had almost 60 kids who were part of ‘little pedallers’ and doing the challenge wherever they were.”

The Give India campaign shows that Aneesh’s campaign has raised over Rs 3.7 lakh with the challenge. Anil says that they will close the page by the end of this month.

“Aneesh doesn’t understand just how much money that is, but he does understand that it is a substantial amount judging by the reactions and appreciation of others around him. He also has a sense that he gave back to the society,” Anil notes. “Aneesh now says that he wants to keep doing challenges to help out in some way or another till the pandemic is over,” Anil adds with a laugh.

Aneesh’s efforts earned him recognition from many quarters. Take a Break, a magazine in the UK, featured him. The England and Wales Cricket Board also featured his 10 days 1000 hits challenge.

Apart from some local media coverage, Andy Carter, a member of Parliament for Warrington South, too met Aneesh earlier this month and lauded his efforts. “I was so pleased to meet a young man from Warrington who’s taken it upon himself to raise funds for the COVID-19 response,” Andy wrote in a Facebook post.

Anil says that beyond the children involved with Aneesh in the challenges, they received good feedback from the parents as well. “It gave them a way to be outside – safely – and spend some time with their kids doing a physical activity.”

Now, Aneesh has also started making short videos on issues like the importance of wearing masks, which his parents share on social media.

Aneesh may be little, but he has big plans. According to his father, he wants to climb Mount Everest as his next challenge to raise funds for Italy. “He has a tremendous amount of energy, ever since he was little. I am thinking that next year, when it’s safe to do so, I’ll take him to Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales, which is around 1,000 metres in height. Mount Everest will have to wait.”

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