The 13th annual DARPAN Extraordinary Achievement Awards was a night filled with excitement, inspiration and celebration. Held at Aria Banquet and Convention Center in Surrey, BC, the event honoured ten individuals whose passion, hard work, and dedication helped them achieve the extraordinary in their fields, becoming an inspiration and role models for the rest of the South Asian community.
Deserving of praise and recognition, the award recipients across different categories shared their journeys, motivations, and insights with everyone attending the event with the hope and intention of inspiring others and paving the way for an even brighter future where extraordinary achievements continue to define the community's legacy.
With RBC being the Presenting Sponsor and more than 50 other companies sponsoring the 13th edition of the DARPAN Extraordinary Achievement Awards, the event has truly come into its own and become the most recognized red-carpet gala in the community.
Sharing their thoughts on the success of the event, publishers of DARPAN Magazine, Gurvinder Hundal and Ramneek Dhillon, said: "Companies are taking ownership of the event - the community is not just attending but financially backing the event, which is why it has grown into what it is today. Without the community's support and interest, such an event can't grow and thrive".
Awards Night – Highlights
This year, 827 people attended the event, which included distinguished political dignitaries such as MP for Surrey-Newton, Sukh Dhaliwal, Parliamentary Secretary and MP for Surrey Center, Randeep Sarai, and MP for Steveston-Richmond East, Parm Bains, among others. The event's Red Carpet, sponsored by Preston Cadillac, buzzed with who's who from the community, as the cocktail lounge, sponsored by WBI Home Warranty, provided the perfect ambience to mingle and connect with influencers, thought leaders and change-makers. A live media station, a crowd-pleaser 360-degree booth, and an array of delicious appetizers and drinks adorned the premises.
At 7.40, guests were seated inside the banquet as the MC for the event, Canadian actor and television personality Huse Madhavji, kicked off the evening that started with a soulful yet energetic performance by lyricist, singer, and up-and-coming artist from Punjab, Bunny Johal.
The award ceremony soon followed with the founder of the Super 30 Program in India, Anand Kumar, receiving the International Sensation Award. Having personally experienced financial difficulties preventing him from accepting admission to Cambridge University, Kumar dedicated his life to helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds secure admission to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT).
Anand Kumar: International Sensation
Anand Kumar, the brilliant mind behind the Super 30 Program, received the International Sensation Award for his unwavering commitment to uplifting underprivileged students through education. The award was presented by RBC's Regional President, Martin Thibodeau, Vice President of Commercial Financial Services, Vineet Verghese, and Vice President of Commercial Financial Services - Public Sector, Non-Profit and Business Professionals, Kam Raman.
Kumar epitomizes the transformative impact of one individual on the world. His relentless dedication to empowering others resonated with everyone when he conveyed a powerful message to the audience: "Contribute to society... dedicate yourself to the community, education, and instigating change... the rewards from society, from Waheguru, will surpass your wildest imagination." His words encapsulate the essence of giving back and its profound potential to shape a brighter future for all.
Juggy Sihota: Corporate Engagement
Juggy Sihota, Chief Growth Officer at Telus Health, won the Corporate Engagement Award for driving positive change and innovation in the corporate world. Amar Doman, owner of BC Lions, presented the award.
Sihota's extensive career, often navigating as the only woman, only minority, and only young professional, instilled in her a deep understanding of the critical role of representation, diversity, and inclusivity in today's times. She expressed her vision: "I think the world can become a better place, and perhaps more peace can be found all around the world if we see more people leading with their head and their heart and more women put their hands up to lead."
Jugpreet Bajwa: Breaking Barriers
Recipient of the Breaking Barriers award, Jugpreet Bajwa, said, "My belief has always been that our limitations can only define us if we let them overpower us." Despite his visual impairment, he's an internationally acclaimed singer, showcasing how talent transcends boundaries. Garry Sangha, CEO of Allure Ventures, presented the award.
Bajwa’s captivating voice has earned global recognition, positioning him as a prominent figure in the music industry. He extends his impact beyond music, dedicating himself to philanthropy. As a motivational speaker, Jugpreet inspires countless people, particularly those with disabilities, urging them to confront life's obstacles with unwavering confidence and determination.
Dr. Randeep Gill: Community Crusader
With prestigious fellowships at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a tenure as an assistant professor at Columbia University, Dr. Randeep Gill won the Community Crusader Award for his unparalleled commitment to community well-being, advocacy & transformative leadership. Nav Grewal, Vice President of WBI Home Warranty, presented the award.
Dr. Gill's tireless efforts in healthcare advocacy and bridging accessibility gaps have earned him the community's trust and recognition. When receiving his award, he shared: "We all deserve fair and equitable healthcare despite where we live. Our postal code should not determine access to healthcare. I will continue to educate the community and advocate for equity so our community will get the healthcare resources they need here in Surrey and South of the Fraser."
Neetu Garcha: Industry Marvel
Neetu Garcha won the Industry Marvel Award for her remarkable contribution to journalism. The award was presented by Peter Heppner, President of Preston Cadillac.
Garcha is a Correspondent with Global National News, covering stories worldwide and across Canada. Her unwavering dedication to reporting has positively impacted the communities she serves, earning her the title of Broadcast Performer of the Year by the BC Association of Broadcasters. Driven by a passion for social justice, human rights, and accountability, Neetu carves paths for herself while staying true to her values. Her advice echoes this commitment: "Always know your 'why'—let it guide you in the small decisions that lead to significant change over time."
Joesh Singh Khunkhun: Young Wonder
Joesh Singh Khunkhun, aged 17, received The Young Wonder Award for his extraordinary achievements in academia and community initiatives. His accolades include securing the esteemed $100,000 Loran Award and receiving recognition through the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award. Overcoming dysgraphia, dyslexia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he advocates for youth facing similar learning disabilities and mental health challenges. The award, presented by Bisman Arora, CEO of Excel Career College, celebrated his outstanding contributions.
Currently a first-year University of British Columbia student studying cognitive sciences and psychology, Khunkhun strives to dispel the stigma surrounding learning differences and empower young individuals. He expressed his vision, "I hope my story can inspire all of you to reduce the stigma. With issues like climate change, social justice, and ongoing polarization, we need all minds and all types of brains and people to come together."
Amarjit Singh Dhadwar: Advancing Philanthropy
Amarjit Dhadwar was honoured with the Advancing Philanthropy Award for his impactful charitable initiatives and community service. He has dedicated countless hours to charitable causes, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jeet Dhindsa, Owner of Van Gogh Designs, presented the award.
From pioneering unique fundraisers to helping during crises, Dhadwar's commitment stands out. His 50/50 fundraiser, where he spent 50 hours elevated 50 feet in the air, raised awareness and funds for critical causes. Having completed 20 such events, he actively supports organizations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Ride2Survive, Diabetes Canada, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Guru Nanak Food Bank. Encouraging others, he urges, "Donate your time and money to causes close to your heart, as many less fortunate people need your support."
Heritage Defender: Karen Dosanjh
Karen Dosanjh received the Heritage Defender award for her remarkable efforts in Preserving and Promoting South Asian Heritage. Her journey ensures the continuation of traditions and bridges generations, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for South Asian culture. Yves Giroux, Vice President, and Perminder Chouhan, Managing Director at Desjardins Group, presented the award.
Her passion ignited while tracing her family's journey from India to Canada evolved into something more profound. She authored "Untold Stories" and produced the documentary "Hidden Histories," amplifying the early migration experiences of South Asians in the country. Her message resonates: "It's simply not enough to do well for yourself and your own family. I believe it's important to share your passion and talents freely to leave a lasting legacy for the community and heritage you represent."
Ishq Bector: Artistic Visionary
Ishq Bector was honoured with the Artistic Visionary Award for his outstanding achievements as a South Asian artist. Over two decades, he has seamlessly bridged musical realms between India and Canada, with his hits contributing to cultural crossovers. Dr. Aly Kanani of Guildford Orthodontic Centre and Langley Orthodontics presented the award.
Bector's musical journey includes composing songs for blockbuster Bollywood films like "Gully Boy," "Besharam," and "Fukrey," and contributing music to web series like "Ms. Marvel," fulfilling his dream as a Marvel Universe fan. His advice echoes his journey: "Stay true to your passion, embrace your roots, and keep pushing your boundaries. In this ever-evolving world of art, remember that your journey is as important as your destination".
Nishan Randhawa: Spirit of Sport
Nishan Randhawa won the Spirit of Sport Award for his exceptional achievements as an athlete. His wrestling journey showcases remarkable talent, securing victories at various levels, including five senior national championships, a junior world bronze medal, and gold for Canada at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Jacqueline Huynh of ML Emporio presented the award, acknowledging his accomplishments.
As Randhawa gears up for the 2024 Olympic trials, he advises aspiring athletes: "Focus on progress. Master your sport, dedicate hours to perfecting your craft, and success will follow." His journey exemplifies the dedication and perseverance integral to achieving athletic excellence.
The evening concluded with a live performance by the internationally acclaimed Punjabi Artist Jasbir Jassi. Known for his high-energy stage presence and chart-topping songs, he has performed at prestigious international stages, including the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. His electrifying performance had guests dancing the night away, providing a dynamic and energetic close to a truly spectacular night.