Rahil Thanawala

Rahil Thanawala is a remarkable 17-year-old. He developed an app to benefit individuals affected by Alzheimer's Disease, inspired by love for his grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. “He has solid respect for family and an entrepreneurial spirit to use new technologies to assist those in need and help so many,” said Alfredo Lopez, Thanawala’s 100 Heroes nominator.

Those closest to Thanawala provide the biggest inspiration. “Since a young age, my parents embedded the values of giving back and volunteering in me by many avenues,” he said. “Whether I was serving food at my Hindu temple or selling popcorn for Boy Scouts, my family has always been there to support me with my philanthropic endeavors.”

Thanawala was inspired by his grandmother to develop a means of therapy for Alzheimer’s patients as they become a growing part of the community. Hence TheSnapLink was born, Thanawala’s nonprofit that provides a range of products for Alzheimer patients to improve cognitive and memory skills.

Lopez first engaged with Thanawala in Young Innovators Quest, a science immersion program. “[Thanawala] showed outstanding academic skills, with ability to communicate effectively and to work in a team,” Lopez shared. “Through countless hours of supporting his grandmother, he found the key elements to assist these patients in remembering common situations and their relatives.

Thanawala’s contribution significantly impacts the scientific arena and enables caregivers to assist with compassion in the context of the patients' families. And while giving to others, he’s receiving important life lessons and skills through his community contributions.

“Volunteering is a two-way street,” he said. “When I give back, it’s rewarding to know I impacted at least one person’s life. And while I am impacting their life, I am also learning new things about myself that I would not normally have figured out sitting in my own bubble.”

Though his grandmother’s deteriorating mental state served as a catalyst for Thanawala to get involved, he encourages others to find their own reasons and ways to help the community. “If you see something like homelessness or climate change, you can make a difference,” he said. “One step at a time.”