The Tsunami of Dec. 2004 impacted hundreds of thousands of lives in Asia. People lost loved ones, their homes and their possessions. It was devastation all around. In the midst of all this darkness, a tiny ray of sunshine broke out thousands of miles away and changed the lives of many, forever. A mutual love of Bollywood music had conspired to have Rajesh Kulkarni and Mahendra Solanki meet in early 2004 through a common friend and they continued to keep in touch. The Tsunami drove them to think about how they could use their talent and time to help those affected, and came up with the idea of having a karaoke-based Bollywood musical show. They quickly gathered a few talented and like-minded individuals and decided to form a group. Thus was born the “Hidden Gems” in January 2005. To their surprise, with minimal publicity, the show in Feb. 2005 was sold out in days. They had to scramble around to arrange a second show on the same day due to overwhelming demand from the community. This initial program, which was a highly emotional affair due to the circumstances, not only raised more than $10,000, but is the foundation on which the current organization proudly stands.
Buoyed by their success, the Gems decided to meet every other weekend and keep practicing on a regular basis. Group members took turns to graciously host these music sessions which would run into the wee hours of dawn. They began getting invitations to perform at private functions. They decided that the money received from such programs be donated to charity and other social causes.
Thus, Hidden Gems began to grow from strength to strength. The group registered itself as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization a few years later, with the mission statement, “Sing with Passion Support a Cause”. More people from various professions, with various talents to offer, joined the group. They organized more fundraisers for humanitarian causes while collaborating with sponsors and partners for the events. Dances, costumes, audio visuals, and later live music energized the shows and built a steady fan base. Although the fundraisers highlighted specific causes and brought in crowds and money, their performances at private functions not only earned more money for charity, but also demonstrated their commitment to their mission. They gave up many weekend nights to practice, travel and perform at these functions just so they could help an orphaned child or a mentally challenged person.
With such diverse talent being beaded together with the common thread of altruism, it was only a matter of time that the Hidden Gems branched out into other forms of giving to society, besides music. They have “Walked with Passion” at 5K fundraiser walks, “Run with Passion” at marathons and “Volunteered with Passion” with the younger gems at the Special Olympics and in rebuilding efforts at the Jersey shore. Till date, the Hidden Gems has supported over 40 non-profit organizations in different ways and has raised more than $500,000 towards numerous causes.
One of the greatest successes of the Hidden Gems has been its young gems. The children of the members, nurtured and inspired by the grown-ups, have formed their own group of singers and musicians. The 10th anniversary show is the first major event of “The Gemlets”, as we fondly call them, and they have put their hearts and souls into their practices. The talent, dedication and commitment of these youngsters continue to amaze the group. It is most heartwarming to see this legacy of sharing your talent for a good cause being passed on to the next generation. “Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights your way.” With purpose and passion, the Hidden Gems continue to march on enthusiastically!
Come join us on this journey!