But the Dad and Daughter Gala isn’t only a financial success. It’s one of Calgary’s hottest events, selling out in less than a minute every year.
“The growth of the Dad and Daughter Gala has everything to do with Tony,” says Christine McIver, founder and chief executive officer of Kids Cancer Care. “Tony has incredible focus and drive and when he commits to something, he commits completely—heart and soul.”
Tony is the same in business.
Following in the footsteps of his father, who owned a small GM dealership in Ottawa, Tony and his brothers Ajay and Kap opened their first dealership in 1985. Since that time, Dilawri Group of Companies has grown into Canada's largest automotive group with 58 franchised dealerships, representing 31 automotive brands, throughout central and western Canada.
“We learned from our father,” says Tony. “He was a mechanic from India who came to Canada in the ‘60s. He was the entrepreneur; my brothers and I put in the technology, the systems and processes to build a national company.”
Watching their father, the Dilawri brothers learned, first and foremost, that business comes down to people. Do right by your customers and employees and your business will naturally flourish.
The Dilawri brothers bring a similar attitude to their philanthropic endeavours. Established in 2002, The Dilawri Foundation has given tens of millions of dollars to charitable causes across Canada.
Kids Cancer Care is one of many charities they support. In addition to the Dad and Daughter Gala, Dilawri Group of Companies is a long-time sponsor of the Don, Joanne and the Coach Golf a Kid to Camp tournament. And this year, Tony raised funds as a challenger in the 2016 High Hopes Challenge.
Tony’s commitment to Kids Cancer Care comes down to the kids.
“There was a young girl from Kelowna named Danielle who spoke at that first gala and she stole my heart like no one has ever done before,” recalls Tony. “The pain she felt as a child, when all she wanted was to be a normal kid. She didn’t hold a grudge; she just kept getting back up every time it knocked her down. She blew me away.”
Afterwards, Tony approached Danielle and said, “I want to make your life easier. What can I do to help?” Danielle turned down support for herself but asked Tony to invest in other children affected by cancer. Tony has been investing in Kids Cancer Care ever since.
At 26, Danielle Rettie still battles the same disability she talked about in her speech at the gala. Diagnosed with cancer in her spine as an infant, Danielle underwent two spinal surgeries, leaving her left leg much weaker and smaller than her right. As a result, she has an uneven gait, which causes her to fall a lot.
Danielle endured countless surgeries, painful medical procedures and years of physiotherapy. She began each school year in either a cast or a brace. Even today, Danielle suffers from excruciating back pain if she doesn’t keep up with her physio-exercises. But, as Tony noted, Danielle does not feel sorry for herself.
Danielle credits her strength and attitude to cancer camp. Her camp experiences helped her to build her confidence and foster an emotional tenacity that sustains her to this day.
“I’ll always be the girl who had cancer, but at camp, I learned we’re all the same,” says Danielle. “I was six when I first discovered Kids Cancer Care and I was falling all over the place because of the brace on my foot, but really I was falling in love—with camp! Camp made me a normal kid. I didn’t just feel like a normal kid. I was a normal kid. I rock climbed, hiked, camped. I did, and still do, anything my little heart desires.”
Helping young people like Danielle, Dilawri Group of Companies does much more than help the children directly affected by cancer. By building kids up, they set kids up to pay it forward, creating a ripple effect well into the future.
An avid snowboarder now living in Nelson, BC, Danielle cycles everywhere and even cycled in Tour for Kids Alberta, a three-day cycling event that raises money for Kids Cancer Care. Working toward a career in occupational therapy, Danielle looks forward to bringing her can-do attitude to patients with disabilities, so they can also live rich, full lives.
“My greatest strength is working with people and bringing out the best in them,” says Danielle. “My personal experience with astrocytoma, the endless surgeries, physio and long-term effects has lasted much longer than the cancer itself, but these experiences have made me stronger and more compassionate toward others.”
Thank you Tony and Dilawri Group of Companies for investing in kids like Danielle. By investing in kids today, you’re investing in a better world for tomorrow.