NAV Bhatia, known as the most devoted fan of the Toronto Raptors and the owner of both Mississauga and Rexdale Hyundai dealerships, was honoured last Saturday in Washington, D.C. at the United Sikhs Gala for his continuous hard work and dedication to the Sikh community.
The resonating theme of the evening was the drug crisis currently gripping Punjab. It’s estimated that approximately 73% of youth are currently victims of some type of addiction in Punjab; so the funds from this year’s gala will be used for a de-addiction clinic in Punjab.
“I believe the work being done by the United Sikhs is very important. We are our youth, Punjab is our youth and it is the responsibility of our entire community to come together to get these kids on the right path, away from drugs and back to achieving their dreams,” said Bhatia.
Bhatia is no stranger to working with youth and promoting the goodness of Sikhism. He has been integral in educating and liaising with the mainstream community regarding Sikh traditions and Punjabi culture through his work as official South Asian Ambassador for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.
Each year he hosts a Diwali game and a Vaisakhi game with the Toronto Raptors, bringing with him over 3,000 South Asians to each game. For each game he also donates hundreds of tickets to those who would normally never be able to afford a regular priced ticket to see his beloved NBA team. His connection with the NBA franchise has apparently strengthened his connection with today’s kids.
“At the end of the gala I was swarmed by the kids all wanting to take pictures and talk basketball. Shouts of ‘you know Drake’ and ‘you know Vince Carter’ could be heard across the room. Taking an hour to meet and talk to the kids really makes a difference. I am the living example of living right, living drug-free and look what dream I am living. This message really resonates with the kids, really inspires them and their optimism is what inspires me. That is why I come to these galas and host the Raptors games,” said Bhatia.
His quote in the New York Times has since become his calling card and sums up what he is about: “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t womanize, I Raptorize.”
If Nav’s story is of inspiration it is the story of an immigrant who came here with nothing, worked hard to achieve his goals and was blessed with success very few achieve. Nav has not forgotten his roots and he often notes: “The true legacy of any individual is not how much money he has, but how many people he has helped to succeed.”
Always one to hold out a helping hand, Nav is looking forward to continuing to work with the youth in the Greater Toronto Area to help them achieve their dreams and begin work with NBA teams outside of Toronto in promoting South Asian culture and the Sikh community.