Sure, it helps to have a good idea.
But Highland Park High School student Mishika Narula proves that the success of any nonprofit venture is only as good as the passion and innovation behind it. In her own words, it’s simply the “Power of Pops.”
Like many kids her age, Mishika had been looking for a volunteer opportunity, but it wasn’t until she attended an NSSRA volunteer training session with a classmate that she found her passion—and it was personal. After learning about the marginalization and lack of respect given to a disabled cousin in India, she was inspired by what she saw.
The Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association (NSSRA) was the first organization of its kind in the country to provide and facilitate year-round recreation programs and services for children and adults with disabilities. Partnering with 10 local park districts, two cities and one village, NSSRA offers special needs individuals access to everything from music programs to Special Olympics to community outings.
“Not only are the participants treated with absolute dignity and respect, but NSSRA gives them a sense of belonging and removes the obstacles to the simple things like sports and recreation that we all take for granted,” Mishika says.
What started as a bake sale item for her school’s annual charity drive soon became an engine for change. Putting her entrepreneurial genes to work (both her father and grandfather have run successful ventures), she decided to start her own part-time cake pop business to raise funds for kids with disabilities.
To date, Mishika has made more than 5,000 cake pops from home—no small feat given that it can take up to four hours just to make 30. Lacking a corporate-sized marketing budget, she’s championed social media, using her website, Facebook page and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth to spread the word about her cause.
Last summer alone, she raised $20,000 for NSSRA’s first bowling tournament fundraiser, “Strikes for NSSRA” —making the total to date $25,000.
“We couldn’t believe the support she received,” said Rachna Narula, Mishika’s mother. “People from as far as Brazil and Italy heard her story and contributed, believing in the power of one girl to make a world of difference.”
Mishika was the event’s top fundraiser—this on top of her being recognized as NSSRA’s “Friend of the Year” at the annual Shining Starts awards banquet for her volunteer efforts and initial $2,000 donation. The City of Highland Park also stepped up, posting a Resolution on September 6th to honor Mishika, her leadership and commitment.
But don’t think for a moment that Mishika is just getting a great story for her college essays.
“Volunteering at NSSRA has taught me the real meaning of patience and gratitude,” she says. “I’ve learned so much from the kids and their parents, most importantly how to make the most of every day and every opportunity. Of course I’m thrilled that my business is making money, but it’s only successful because it allows me to give back.”
So if you’re looking for a sweet treat that’s good for you and others, visit Mishika’s website and place your order. You too can help humanity “one cake pop at a time.”
Founded in 1970, NSSRA serves children and adults of all ages with physical, developmental, emotional or other disabilities living in its partner communities on the North Shore. NSSRA has more than 800 recreational, sport, cultural, social, and leisure offerings available during the day, after school, in the evenings and on weekends during the course of the year. Its inclusion-support option provides individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy full participation in partner park district programs while receiving the one-on-one support they need to succeed. NSSRA’s Gator Athletics/Special Olympics training and competitions span 17 sports. NSSRA receives much of its funding through partner agencies, but NSSRF, its supporting foundation, provides additional monies for scholarships, special events, transportation vehicles and more.