LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – ASH ABHYANKAR
Ash Abhyankar’s successful 58-year global career in leadership positions at IBM, AirCare, AT&T, Fujitsu, etc. He has an Electrical Engineering degree from IIT Bombay and a Master’s in Chemical Engineering from the USA. He has contributed to the BC Community by serving on boards of different organizations fundraising for hospitals. His passion is To Give Back and Pay Forward by helping people expand their comfort zone to showcase their talent and contributions. At 81, he’s not ready to retire.
EXCELLENCE IN THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AWARD – SIRISH RAO & LAURA BYSPALKO
Sirish Rao and Laura Byspalko founded the award-winning Indian Summer Festival. He is the Director of Public Engagement and Learning at the Vancouver Art Gallery. An internationally recognized cultural innovator, curator, publisher, and writer—founded multiple cultural organizations known for experimentation, innovation, and driving social and systemic change. He worked in diverse cultural contexts, from Vancouver to Mexico City, Ottawa, Delhi, Paris, and Bangalore.
YOUTH LEADERSHIP AWARD – TAVISHA KOCHHAR
Tavisha’s philanthropy began in 2017 when she was 11. Witnessing people’s challenges, she felt devastated and wanted to aid Canadians. She started raising funds by making beautiful art pieces from recyclables called “Tavisha’s Helping Hands.” During COVID-19, this 16-year-old benefactor has fundraised by making masks and donating to various hospitals for frontline workers and COVID-19 research. Her masks and story are now a part of Surrey Archives (COVID-19 Collection.
She has been a recipient of Shakti Award, The Violet Richardson Award from Soroptimist International, 25 under 25 By Surrey Board of Trade, The Diana Award from the UK and Top Honor Youth Volunteer Award Surrey Now
YOUNG PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR AWARD – GURTEJ VARN
Gurtej Varn, founder of White Coat Financial, a leading nationwide private wealth advisory firm serving Doctors, combines a flat fee model with a vertically integrated approach. He has been recognized by Wealth Professional Canada on the 2022 40 under 40 list and as 2023’s Top Advisor under 40. His nonprofit, Seva Financial, provides pro bono financial planning services to single parents, individuals with disabilities, and low-income families. He is also a Big Brother and a student mentor with the Cmolik Foundation.
DRISHTI BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEAR AWARD – RAJ AADMI
Raj Aadmi is an Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, and CEO of Aadmi Group of Companies, which comprises industries related to the car wash, energy centers, retail, commercial space, real estate development, and multiple investment prospects. Raj is an entrepreneur who has seen various business world challenges at 14. During the 2008 economic downturn, he lost all of his amassed fortune. Still, due to his sheer determination, he recovered shortly after. Raj strongly believes in the power of teamwork and credits the success of all his companies to his team. Giving back to the community is essential to him by contributing to numerous charities yearly. His message to the youth is, “As long as you have a strong mindset, you can achieve anything.”
INNOVATION IN THE ARTS AWARD – JUGPREET BAJWA
Jugpreet Bajwa is a visually impaired singer celebrated for winning numerous global singing competitions. He has transitioned over recent years into an authoritative figure in the music industry, serving as a judge in various competitions and offering aspiring musicians invaluable insights and advice. Besides being a lyricist and composer, Jugpreet is a philanthropist and a motivational speaker, believing and working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Notably, he was the youngest recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in Canada. Spreading love and peace through his music is his way of giving back to the world.
OUTSTANDING ATHLETE AWARD – PARI GOYAL
Pari Goyal is a grade 12 student at David Thompson Secondary School in Vancouver, and she has dedicated 13 years of her life to rhythmic gymnastics. She has achieved significant milestones, including representing Canada at the World Challenge Cup in Romania as a member of the Canadian Senior Group. Pari is the first South Asian athlete in rhythmic gymnastics to represent Canada on the global stage. This year, she earned her spot on the 2023-2024 Canadian National Team as an individual athlete.
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD – TODD SCHIERLING
The BC Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA) represents 55 affiliate locals and 4,500 professional members, including the Yukon. Throughout BC, they respond to and mitigate various hazards and emergencies and provide public safety in our communities 24/7. These include structure fires, wildland-urban interface fires, and other life-threatening medical situations like motor vehicle accidents. Their 4500 members also volunteer and contribute financially to the community, managing Healthy Snack Programs, sports, and educational programs. Lastly, the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund is the organization’s charitable arm. These organizations in British Columbia and Yukon provide programs for burn survivors.
INNOVATION IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AWARD – BHUSHAN GOPALUNI
Bhushan Gopaluni is a Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering professor, Vice-Provost, and Associate Vice-President at UBC. He is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Process Control. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta and a Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, both in chemical engineering. He was an engineering consultant at Matrikon Inc. He received the Killam Teaching Prize, the Dean’s Service Medal from UBC, and the D.G. Fisher Award in Process Control from the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineers. He was also an Elizabeth and Leslie Gould Teaching Professor from 2014-2017.
HEALTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – DR. INDERJIT DADIALA
Dr. Inderjit Dadiala is a pioneering female Indo-Canadian dentist for over 35 years. Known for her expertise in smile perfection, she has achieved success through hard work and compassion, offering pro bono care and community engagement through radio shows and seminars. She’s teaching at UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry. She prioritizes holistic patient care. Her generous, community-focused spirit is deeply rooted in spirituality. Her journey exemplifies resilience, excellence, and a profound commitment to improving smiles and lives.