Teen founds do­mes­tic vi­o­lence help ini­tia­tive

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Dana Guthrie dguthrie@ben­ton­courier.com

A Ben­ton teen is once again mak­ing head­lines for reach­ing out to help oth­ers.

After win­ning a con­test ear­lier this year hosted by Sonic Drive-in and In­sta­gram, Ben­ton High School grad­u­ate Ryan Taneja ended up with the na­tional ti­tle of prom

“Quarank­ing” and $25,000 to­wards his dream car. Now, Taneja is reach­ing out to a group of peo­ple des­per­ately in need - vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Taneja has cre­ated “The Mini Taneja Pur­ple Ini­tia­tive” which is ded­i­cated to rais­ing money for do­mes­tic

vi­o­lence vic­tims. Named for his mother, Mini, who he calls the very def­i­ni­tion of strength, Tan­jea uses the ini­tia­tive to raise funds for Sa­line County Safe Haven.

“There are so many ways she has shown me that we can give back,” Taneja said. “Dif­fer­ent ways you’d never think of.”

Taneja’s mother Mini is ex­tremely proud of her son and hon­ored that he named his ini­tia­tive after her.

“I feel so great,” Mini said. “I feel won­der­ful. I can’t ex­press how won­der­ful I feel about my son.”

There are two ways to do­nate to the ini­tia­tive.

The first is by pur­chas­ing cus­tom Spo­tify art through Taneja’s Etsy store. Avail­able items in­clude key­chains, mag­nets and frames.

The sec­ond is what ex­cites Taneja the most part­ner­ship with busi­nesses around Sa­line County.

In one of the first col­lab­o­ra­tions of it’s kind in the area, on Aug. 14, a por­tion of all sales at Just Ice Cream, lo­cated in his­toric down­town Ben­ton, will be do­nated to Safe Haven through the MTP Ini­tia­tive.

Tan­jea is hop­ing to get more busi­nesses in the county in­volved with spe­cial shop­ping days such as the one with Just Ice Cream. He has also re­ceived do­na­tions from La Ha­cienda and Rina’s Kitchen.

Taneja pro­vides frames for the busi­nesses who part­ner with the ini­tia­tive or make a do­na­tion that they can use to show they are a spon­sor of the ini­tia­tive.

“We will take any do­na­tion,” Taneja said. “It doesn’t even have to be a lot.”

Taneja added that he has prayer­fully con­sid­ered the ini­tia­tive and be­lieves that he is do­ing God’s will by cre­at­ing an ini­tia­tive that will help lo­cal vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. He also hopes that by giv­ing peo­ple a chance to par­tic­i­pate in some­thing pos­i­tive, it will help bring some joy to what has been a year of hard­ship for many peo­ple.

“You see how di­vided we are po­lit­i­cally and how iso­lated peo­ple are right now,” Taneja said.

He be­lieves that by giv­ing peo­ple an out­let to help other peo­ple, they will also be help­ing them­selves.

“I am try­ing to do some­thing pos­i­tive and leave an im­pact,” Taneja said.

After win­ning the con­test ear­lier this year, Taneja said he felt a re­spon­si­bil­ity to give back and “to be a shin­ing light in a dark time.”

While he knows that he might not be able to find a busi­ness ev­ery month will­ing to part­ner with him, but he will keep the ini­tia­tive go­ing.

“It’s my way of giv­ing back be­cause y’all gave me so much … I did this not just out of re­spect for my mom, but for Ben­ton and Sa­line County as a whole. There is some­thing spe­cial about our com­mu­nity that I don’t think there will be any­where able to repli­cate what goes on in our lit­tle town and in our county.”

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

Ryan Taneja, right, and his mother Mini, pose out­side of Ben­ton High School to cel­e­brate his grad­u­a­tion. Taneja has cre­ated “The Mini Taneja Pur­ple Ini­tia­tive” to raise money for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

Taneja named the ini­tia­tive after his mother, Mini, and has also cre­ated a logo for the ini­tia­tive mod­eled after his mother and the fa­mous Rosie the Riv­eter.

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