Anish Lakkapragada’s Nature Card Donations for hospitalized youth


Photo by Susanna Tang

Anish and ArtReach members holding up their completed cards, each with a wildlife photograph.

Surya Saraf, Copy Editor

“A child afflicted with any condition or trauma doesn’t know what normal truly is. So, why not give them a taste of that experience?” 

After enduring a tic condition in middle school, junior and wildlife photographer Anish Lakkapragada launched a mission to uplift those dealing with illnesses that compromise their quality of life. With paper cards and his favorite photographs in hand, Lakkapragada visited various Lynbrook clubs, requesting members to decorate and personalize cards — each embellished with his eye-catching shots of birds and flowers — to be mailed to charity organizations for hospitalized children, a project he calls “Nature Card Donations.”

“What made me move past my condition was the fact that I was not alone and that other children were similarly struggling,” Lakkapragada said. “I hope these cards help children realize that somebody has their back.”

A year-long endeavor, Lakkapragada’s passion project was once a tentative experiment, involving only a few charities but grew to make a lasting impact on local youth. As of now, he has mailed over 1,100 cards, personalized by Lynbrook students from Spanish Honor Society, ArtReach, California Scholarship Federation and more, to charities such as Cards for Hospitalized Kids and the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. 

“Many of these children struggle with feeling different, and may seek human connection and reassurance,” Lakkapragada said. “That’s why I wanted students to create these cards, to give them a personal touch.”

Lynbrook students write inspirational messages on each card, adding their own drawings and paper cutouts. In their efforts to help others heal through messages like “Have an amazing day,” or “You are brave, worthy and loved,” they enjoy the therapeutic experience to create and design.  The cards serve as picturesque reminders of natural beauty to these hospitalized children, many of whom are bedridden and may not have the chance to enjoy nature firsthand.

Inserted in each card’s cleverly-designed pocket is a photograph of a majestic bird or bright flower — a taste of Lakkapragada’s talent. Lakkapragada turned to photography as a coping mechanism for the academic stress he felt as a sophomore. Inspired by his father, a photography enthusiast, he began to explore the art at parks and nature preserves around the Bay Area. Since then, Lakkapragada’s interest in photography has been fueled by his admiration for nature— specifically, for birds. Nowadays, when in any park, nature preserve or even on Lynbrook campus, Lakkapragada always has his camera on hand, ready to take a snapshot of any bird perched on a nearby tree branch.

“As I picked up wildlife photography during quarantine, I started to find the value in capturing split seconds of bird movements, often fleeting but fascinating,”  Lakkapragada said.  “Photography is a way for me to preserve time, a way to go back and observe those suspended moments.” 

With the first few cards Lakkapragada sent came overwhelming support from the charities, their children delighted by the cheerful photographs and messages. Lakkapragada was thus motivated to continue donating, the impact of his work resonating with children across the U.S. 

“You never know what situation or struggle someone is going through, so it’s important to recognize the effects the cards have, and how much they mean to these children,” Lakkapragada said.

Regarding the future of Nature Card Donations, Lakkapragada hopes to gauge the interest of more clubs and students willing to help, and connect with more local youth, to work toward a future where everyone can appreciate natural beauty, whether they are confined to a hospital bed or strolling in a scenic park.