As famously said by Winston Churchill, we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. A living testament to this quote is businessman and philanthropist, Amarjit Dhadwar. In addition to establishing a successful family-owned business, A1 Sports located in Surrey, Dhadwar has devoted his life to volunteering his time, money, experience, and skills to those in need, locally and beyond.
Born in the village of Sakohpur in the Nawanshahr District of Punjab, Dhadwar grew up watching his father spearhead various local charitable initiatives. In his youth, Dhadwar himself also was proactively involved in organizing sports events and partaking in them as well. Following his marriage, after immigrating to Canada in 1994, Dhadwar found himself working in many fields, such as furniture delivery, forestry, and trucking, all in pursuit of a brighter future for his family. Although his trucking career was full-fledged and going strong, a seemingly mundane encounter unexpectedly changed the course of his life.
Dhadwar recalls, “I still vividly remember visiting a family in the panorama area of Surrey. They had a big house, which I was absolutely enthralled and amazed by. However, when I went inside and met with the couple, I realized how unhappy they were deep down, as parents. The husband and wife expressed how sad they were that their kids had moved out of the very home they had built for them, and were not as closely bonded as they would have liked.” Moved by the conversation, Dhadwar decided to make some adjustments to his own lifestyle. He realized that parents sometimes end up working long hours for the sake of their children, but are ironically not able to spend enough time with them to foster a close connection, which leads to eventual distance.
With a mission to step foot into a business that allowed for him to stay close to his family, Dhadwar seriously began evaluating alternatives to trucking. Although trucking had good money, he felt detached from his family and the larger community, as he would be away from home for long periods of time. He was always on the go, to the extent that he’d sometimes get news about the current events of Surrey when he’d be dropping off a load in Toronto! Coincidentally, it was in Toronto that Dhadwar spotted a shop similar to the business he runs today. As such, A1 Sports was born, a customized solution for everything sports and more, including equipment, shirts, jackets, hoodies, uniforms, trophies, awards, signs, and banners, among an array of other items.
Founded in 2004, the business gradually began to gain traction. After 12 years as a trucker, Dhadwar officially exited the trucking profession in 2008 to solely focus on A1 Sports’ growth. Once he was dedicated full-time to A1 Sports, he began building a circle of like-minded community-oriented people. When his customers would come to collect orders for community events, he’d often ask them details about the event and offer to volunteer his time, attendance, and participation! Dhadwar shares a specific story, “In 2012, I interacted with one of my customers, who turned out to be an officer with the Delta Police Department. I asked him about the event he was a part of and he mentioned Cops for Cancer. I knew I had to get involved!” Undoubtedly, that conversation transformed into much more. Today, Dhadwar is not only the Director of the Delta Police Foundation, which is a bridge between the public and police, but also a member of the Delta Police Pipe Band, world renowned for crowd pleasing musical presentations.
Over time, Dhadwar’s interests in such community events and volunteer initiatives have grown tremendously. A1 Sports has become synonymous with a platform for positive change and Dhadwar has led and been associated with countless fundraisers. Of all his involvements, the generous community activist credits his 50/50 event to be a key milestone in his philanthropic journey. In the 50/50 fundraiser, Dhadwar spent 50 hours elevated 50 feet in the air, on a crane platform, raising money for charity. The idea is to attract people’s attention, get them curious about what’s going on, and then raise awareness on important issues while collecting donations. So far, Dhadwar has executed 20 such 50/50 fundraisers, for causes such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Ride2Survive, Diabetes Canada, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Rain or shine, the community has always opened their hearts to supporting these causes, as Dhadwar and his team have always exceeded initial fundraising goals.
Dhadwar is also at the forefront in moments of crisis. In partnership with Guru Nanak Food Bank and BC Airlift Emergency Response Operations (BC AERO), he led an operation to support those affected by the November 2021 Pacific Northwest floods. Alongside Dhadwar, volunteers handmade more than three thousand meals that were sent to Hope via helicopters, and given out to people still stranded there after flooding and landslides closed the highways.
Over a span of three weeks, Dhadwar headed extensive meal preparation efforts and worked with BC AERO to airlift 400,000 pounds of food and items of basic needs, through 425 flights in various flood-impacted areas. Dhadwar now holds a directorship with BC AERO. In fact, when Merrit’s Nicola Valley Food Bank called on him for help this past December, he brought a food and toy drive to life within a short period of three days. To encourage donations, Dhadwar and his team set up an opportunity for photos with Santa in a helicopter at Langley Regional Airport, where the man himself dressed up as Santa Claus!
Another notable accomplishment of Dhadwar’s is his membership with the British Columbia Motorcycle Drill Team. He is the first Sikh rider in Canada to be part of the organization’s performance roster. The philanthropic entrepreneur’s charitable involvements also include his work with the Canadian Cancer Society, KidsPlay Foundation, and Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen.
He is a regular donor to the Canadian Blood Services.
Dhadwar is further a part of Girls Fly Too, implementing annual events that are part of an outreach initiative meant to energize more females to discover the amazing opportunities available to them in Aviation, Aerospace, Marine & Defence and other STEM-based fields. Dhadwar is also involved with the 3300 BCR (Bhai Kanhaiya) Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps (RCACC) of Surrey, which is Canada’s first cadet corps sponsored by the Sikh community.
As is evident, whenever Dhadwar finds out about a community event, he gets involved in one way or another. Then, within a few months of getting associated with an organization, the eager community advocate ends up on an organizing committee of some sorts! What’s even more impressive is how Dhadwar has managed to involve youth. “About 30 youth of my kids’ age have been involved with me from Day 1 and they are all now serving the community in different ways. Youth community involvement keeps children from going down the wrong path, and also builds self-confidence along with skill sets in public relations.”, elaborates Dhadwar.
The loving father of three takes pride in the support and community involvement he sees from his own children, wife, and extended family. Whenever there is an event or fundraiser, his friends and family become his backbone and support system, volunteering their time in every and any way possible. As he was inspired by his father, Dhadwar finds purpose in setting an example for his children. Dhadwar recognizes that youngsters today are driven to create change in their communities, especially given the increase in communal awareness, thanks to social media. Dhadwar has noticed, over time, that planning charitable events has gotten much easier and faster given the evolution of technology. What once entailed getting people to individually commit for a date set far out in the future, can be accomplished seamlessly through one group message or a single online post.
For Dhadwar, the biggest motivation behind all his work is the impact he is able to make and the ripple effect his actions can potentially have. For the social worker, “me time” is defined as volunteerism. His passion for wanting to give back to the community is genuinely the fuel of his life. Sharing the secret to all that he does, Dhadwar reveals, “Be positive! Give time to your surroundings and don’t be a stranger to your neighbors. Last year, nobody really knew me in my new neighborhood. When it snowed, I shoveled others’ driveways along with my own and opened the door to new conversations. Now, my neighbors all know me and greet me with a friendly “Hello, Mr. Singh!” when they see me. It’s all about taking action - be it big or small. That’s how you make friends and build communities.”
Surely, a man of many talents, Dhadwar is a role-model locally and globally. A caring father, go-getter businessman, kind-hearted philanthropist, and encouraging leader are only a handful of titles to describe him. Yet, Dhadwar says, “The biggest reward, for me, is to be known as a volunteer.”