April 22, 2019 | 59° F

Rutgers Blind Date Auction fundraises for eye surgery in India


Despite being marketed as such, the Rutgers 20/20s blind date auction leads to very few dates. Instead, the event helps fundraise for the Sankara Eye Foundation, which provides free eye surgery for people in India suffering from curable blindness.

RU 20/20 hosted its annual Blind Date Auction a semester early this year. The auction is a fundraiser for the Sankara Eye Foundation, which provides free eye surgery for people in India suffering from curable blindness.

Despite the event being a date auction, it leads to very few dates. Phani Paladugu, a School of Engineering senior, bought his fraternity brother Divas Singh for $100.

“It's nothing special because I see him every day anyways,” Singh, a School of Engineering senior, said.

Divas volunteered to represent his fraternity, Delta Sigma Iota, in the Blind Date Auction. He said that many of the organizations involved in the event, most of which are fraternities and sororities, offer one member to be auctioned for the charity.

Anjani Patel, the president of RU 20/20, said that almost all people who are auctioned are bought by their own organizations.

“We don't want to force them to go on a date with anyone because it's kind of awkward,” the School of Arts and Sciences senior said. “But it's fun to see the competitiveness because a lot of these are fraternities and sororities so they're all friends, so they try to outbid each other and bump up the price. It's really a lot of fun to see that.”

Patel said she could not remember any dates that emerged from last years' Blind Date Auctions, but. she said, the DJ at this year's auction bought a date.

“Who knows,” she said. “Maybe it will lead to a 20/20 couple.”

Paladugu, after buying his fraternity brother, said that Delta Sigma Iota considered the $100 price tag a donation, not an expense.

“I don't know if we're gonna actually go on a date or not, but it's for a good cause,” he said. “We got a good price. We were expecting to pay around this much.”

Paladugu said he placed a bid for Singh when the price had settled at more than $60. He placed a much higher bid to make sure that he would win the auction.

“It's kind of a pride thing,” Paladugu said. “We're both fraternity brothers and I wanted to vote for my own fraternity brother. When he's auctioned we want to be able to buy our brother back for the highest price.”

The auctions were conducted by Sai Kumaran, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, who was serving as the event's MC.

Each auction takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes, Kumaran said. He begins by introducing the person being auctioned, then asks a few questions about their interests, hobbies or about what they are studying in school.

Singh said he was asked about his most memorable moment in college, his favorite idea for a date and his best pickup line.

“I think I did fine,” he said. “No matter what happens, at the end of the day it's for a good cause. I had fun. I don't mind dressing up. People make fun of you when you're up on stage but I think it's all fun and games.”

The proceeds for the event go toward the Sankara Eye Foundation, which provides more than 1.6 million free eye surgeries in India for those in need.

Patel said that it costs $30 to fund surgery for a person in India, “pre-op, operation and post-op.” Most of the cases are easily treatable conditions like cataracts and conjunctivitis. But because of the poverty and scarcity of healthcare in India, conditions like those often progress to blindness.

“I went to India in January and I actually got to see the hospital and its honestly amazing to see the kind of work they do,” Patel said. “They take a van and go into these small villages ... put everyone in it who needs the surgery, take them to a city, do the surgery and everything, and then take them back home.”

Many of RU 20/20's members are Indian, Patel said. Events like the Blind Date Auction give students a way to connect with others who share their traditions, and to give back to communities in India.

“We're all together because of Rutgers, and now we're all together trying to do something for back at home,” Patel said.

Max Marcus

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