Jessi Sandhu’s Endless Giving Gala wasn’t a fund-raising event, it was a fund-raining event, says the Brampton, Ont. Realtor. Donors showered their support on the cause, helping him surpass his ambitious $100,000 goal by $150,000. He recently presented a $250,000 cheque to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Surprisingly, the splashy event was Sandhu’s first foray into the world of gala event fundraisers. Previously, he hosted summer barbecues and fun days for his farm area and held colouring contests, pumpkin giveaways and other events, raising $2,100 one year and $5,000 another. But this year he decided it was time to go big and honour the hospital that had sent a special team to Women’s College Hospital for a month and a half to care for his premature son, Zorawar, now 13-years-old and over six feet tall.
Sandhu says, “You promise everything during hard times.” The small fundraisers were a start, but in these times, with the hospital at 138 per cent capacity and in need of funds for its new hospital, it was time to step up. “They gave such amazing care to my son. I had to do something to give back.”
Sandhu dreams big. One morning in October at 3 a.m., the broker with Re/Max Realty Services in Brampton, Ont. had an idea: hold a gala event. He brainstormed with his wife, Raman Sandhu, about who would donate.
He spoke to his friend, the owner of Queen’s Manor Event Centre, to secure his help and the venue. (The banquet hall didn’t profit from the partnership.) Then Sandhu put his intentions on a billboard for all to see.
He reached out via social medial to his friends and influential sphere of influence. He says his wife and her sister Lucky Kaur lent their support, organizing, making up seating plans and anything else that was required to make it a success.
“It was our first event. We all took it as a challenge,” says Sandhu. The VIP gala offered champagne on arrival, entertainment, amazing food and fun. Watch a video of the event here.
As luck would have it, the event was held December 11, when pandemic regulations were allowing full capacity and just before everything was locked down again, he says.
The elegant event was attended by more than 500 influential individuals, welcomed by Mayor Patrick Brown.
Back on that October morning when he came up with the idea, Sandhu wondered, “Who is going to give, how will we raise funds at a time what we’re all enduring what we’re enduring?” He needn’t have worried. The gathering of mostly 35-to-40-somethings opened their hearts. One raffle winner of an $8,000 Breitling rose gold watch didn’t accept it. He put it back into the raffle to raise more funds. Winners two and three followed suit. Rather than return the watch to the raffle again, the fourth winner bought the watch for $16,000. There were also donations of $21,000, $10,000 and $5,000. “The crowd was amazing,” he says. “It was a quality group that gathered in Brampton.”
Sandhu arrived in Canada from India in December 2002 as an international student. He says resources were limited and he had his fair share of struggles, working a variety of odd jobs from washing trucks to working security to driving a truck to owning a trucking company. He says he did what he had to do to survive.
But he says, “I’m a people guy. I love talking to people, listening to people and meeting people,” so real estate was a natural choice. His elder brother works in real estate in India.
Sandhu got his real estate license in 2011 and works in the Brampton area. Now, he says even if he’s working 20 hours a day, he loves what he does so it’s not like work.
Sandhu and Raman married in February 2006 and have two children, Zorawar and Nimrat.
“I come from a humble beginning. Whatever you dream you can achieve,” says the winner of the Re/Max Diamond Club Award in 2021. But after the gala, seeing the support of his sphere of influence and his friends, he says “that kind of support is the best award.”
Sandhu plans to make the gala an annual event, with different charities benefiting.
Connie Adair is a contributing writer for REM.