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  1. Hillsborough

King High student makes mobility easier for patients in need

Sabian Fuentes (left) and Harsh Bagdy. Fuentes received a wheelchair through Charity Health Resources, the nonprofit Bagdy started. [Photo courtesy of Charity Health Resources]
Published Apr. 18

By day, 17-year-old Harsh Bagdy is a junior International Baccalaureate student at King High School, where he's active on the speech and debate team and belongs to Future Business Leaders of America.

But when the clock strikes 3:25 p.m., Harsh dons another title: chief executive officer.

Charity Health Resources, Inc. is the nonprofit Harsh started that he runs with the help of a volunteer board and staff. In just a little over a year, the organization has provided about 15 people with walkers, canes and wheelchairs to make mobility easier.

It's an idea that Harsh says stemmed from a casual conversation with his mother, Kavita Jain.

Jain, a physical therapist, told Harsh that it can be difficult for her clients to obtain equipment to help them get around. Harsh saw a need and jumped at the chance to do something about it.

It's a move that's not out of character for the teen. Some years ago, Harsh helped coordinate donations for lockers at Patricia J. Sullivan Elementary School. Other charitable efforts include raising money to replace a soccer field at his elementary school and securing donations for a computer lab.

While most teens spend their summer breaks working part-time jobs or hanging out with friends, Harsh spent the summer of 2017 crafting a business plan for what would become Charity Health Resources.

Jain and Harsh's dad, Ash Bagdy, stepped in to help with filing for the organization's nonprofit status.

"I just put in as much time in front as I could," he said. "We weren't sure exactly sure where this would go."

The plan was complete by the time school started back up in August 2017. Charity Health Resources's first client was a nine-year-old boy who needed a new wheelchair.

"It felt amazing," Harsh said. "I was able to change someone's life for the better."

Harsh's drive to help others comes from seeing directly how his efforts almost instantly improve their quality of life, Jain said.

"The impact on their lives is so immense and when he saw that, it inspired him to go out and do more," she said.

But juggling a rigorous academic load with a budding business would put constraints on Harsh's schedule.

"I was held back by school commitments," he said. "The time I wanted to put into this was limited."

To move forward, Harsh reached out to connections at Metropolitan Ministries — where he'd volunteered for years in the gift shop and in after-school programs — to form a partnership.

Harsh collects gently-used donations and works with local companies to purchase the equipment at a significant discount. Employees at Metropolitan Ministries, meanwhile, screen requests and gives those in need the equipment.

It's proved to be a fruitful relationship, Harsh said.

"Getting the donations and partnerships, we just took off," he said. "That's helping us expand to other areas."

Tim Marks, president and chief executive officer at Metropolitan Ministries, concurred.

"There's always opportunities for young people to give back at Metro and we love to see how that can grow with young people like Harsh," he said.

It's also helped in garnering recognition from the community. Earlier this year Harsh was named a Lightning Community Hero, an honor that comes with a $50,000 prize. Harsh said he's donated half to Metropolitan Ministries and will put the other half toward his college education.

In February, Harsh was named a Rising Star at WEDU's 14th Annual Be More Awards gala. The recognition goes to "an individual, under the age of 21, who has distinguished himself or herself in the community," according to the Be More website.

Harsh said he's grateful for the acknowledgement and hopes it boosts Charity Health's name and mission in the community.

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