Raj Khillan believes you do not need a reason to help others—and made that belief a focal point in his career.
“I grew up in the small state of Punjab, India, where I witnessed poverty firsthand,” he says. “After coming to America in 2001 to pursue my PhD at Louisiana Tech University, I dreamed of finding a way to help the less fortunate back home.”
In 2014, that dream came to fruition. Raj and his wife, Ashu Vohra, co-founded Smile Donor, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to uplifting and providing for underprivileged children across the globe.
“We’ve tackled several projects since our founding, helping orphanages and special needs children abroad, and working to improve education for children in India as well as here in Chandler,” says Raj. “With our team of 50 people, we’ve been able to help around 10,000 kids, which has been amazing!”
In some of its recent projects in India, Smile Donor partnered with proVISION ASIA to collect 200 wheelchairs for disabled individuals in Bangalore; raised $24,000 to support therapy and treatment for 40 special needs children in the Solan District of Himachal Pradesh; and joined forces with Arizona nonprofit Samhita to bring new bathrooms, a kitchen and a well to Vikash Parishad orphanage in Sarangada.
“In Chandler, we also just finished a charity hike to raise money for the Student Welfare Fund at Hamilton High School,” Raj says. “The fund benefits homeless and underprivileged students and their families, and we were able to raise $4,500 to contribute.”
As if he is not already busy enough, Raj also owns six Subway franchises across Chandler, Mesa and Phoenix. His giving heart has prompted him to continue his good works through his franchises, giving back to local low-income elementary schools.
“For the past two years, we have worked with Webster Elementary School in Mesa to reward the students of its Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program, which encourages students through a philosophy of positive reinforcement,” he says. “Students are selected every month to walk over to Subway for a free lunch. It’s especially meaningful because most of these students come from low-income households, transnational families, or families living in homeless shelters, so a day eating out is something truly special.”
Of all this Chandler dad’s roles, one takes priority.
“Being a dad to my 7-year-old twins, Ayan and Avya. They keep me the busiest!” laughs Raj.