The Priyanka Foundation, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that works to make hospital life more comfortable for children with life-threatening illnesses, took home a national Classy Award last week.

The foundation works to make life as normal as possible for children during long hospital stays. It offers pre-surgery hospital tours, support groups, crafts and daily activities for the children and their families. It also teaches relaxation techniques to help children control pain or anxiety.

Such services are available in the United States, but not in countries such as India, where the foundation is working. For its unusual niche in philanthropy, it was among 64 Classy award winners nationwide at a gala event in San Diego Saturday night.

The event is billed as the "largest philanthropic awards ceremony in the country," complete with 2,000 guests, a red carpet entrance and nonprofit leaders posing for photos on it.

"While people worldwide are acutely aware of cancer, only a few have heard of the services that help children deal with cancer and other chronic and terminal illnesses,'' said Leela Rao, global executive director of the Priyanka foundation.

"Classy Awards recognition could dramatically raise worldwide awareness of these proven services. The award also helps us raise funds needed to offer these life-affirming programs to more children worldwide.''

The awards are a relatively new offering from a San Diego-based online fundraising business. Launched in 2009, they initially put the spotlight on San Diego area charities, but have now gone national. More than 2,000 nominations poured in this year.

Rao created her foundation after watching the help her daughter Priyanka received at the Child Life Center at Minneapolis' Children's Hospital and Clinics. Priyanka's battle with leukemia ended with her death in 2003, and Rao vowed to help other children receive the same support. For more information, go to www.the

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511