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Desi Santa is Coming to Town

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Bruce Kehler is known as a man with a big heart, and a tradition of giving! Over the years Bruce has given a lot; so much in fact, that the number of causes that he has supported and continues to support cannot be listed here. Needless to say, there are many causes and communities, both here in Canada and abroad that have benefited from Bruce’s ‘Sharing is Caring’ philosophy.

As husband to his wife Georgina, a father to three daughters, and grandfather to three granddaughters and one grandson, Bruce has many demands on his time from both his family and his work. Together they own the majority of Canex building supplies along with partners Bruce Van den Brink, Brian Wireks, and Bryan de Visser. The company, located in Chilliwack, British Columbia was originally started by two brothers, Burt and Jerry Van den Brink in 1983. It was purchased in 1994 by Kehler and his partners, and has grown to over 100 employees, with sales approaching $100 million annually. The tremendous support of many communities has allowed the Kehler Group to grow and give back. When they do give back, they do so in a manner that will provide a lasting and ongoing benefit.

One of the many examples of Bruce’s goals to provide an enduring benefit include his support of Binish Hayat’s field hockey academy in Lahore, Pakistan. Binish, a young Pakistani woman in her early 30’s has already achieved much. An Olympic medalist, she also has the status of becoming the first ever Pakistani Woman to be certified as a world class umpire in the field of floor hockey. Coming from humble beginnings, as one of 11 children, both she and her parents faced significant challenges just keeping her in the sport of field hockey. However, by persevering, Binish has enjoyed considerable success.

After being introduced to Kehler one year ago by fellow Pakistani, Mukhtar Jat, Binish shared her dream to start a girl’s field hockey academy for young girls from poor backgrounds in the villages in and around Lahore. A plan was put forward by Binish to Kehler, Canex Building Supplies, and Team Canex, who agreed to fund her dream for one year with the possibility of an extension. Tracksuits, equipment and shoes were purchased in April 2016 for 70 girls from the ages of 8 to 13 years old.

After its’ initial success, the academy was recently expanded to 100 girls with Kehler traveling to Lahore to cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony in the biggest field hockey stadium in South Asia, with a capacity of over 70,000. The academy is already starting to produce successful hockey players. In their first three inter-school and inter-city tournaments, they won two gold and one silver medal competing against players up-to 17 years old. With three players being scouted for a Pakistani Allstars team, Binish Hayat is clearly a very talented woman with an eye for talent and the ability to find diamonds in the rough.

Through his support of Binish and her academy, Kehler heard that the Kindergarten kids at the all-girls school who’s grounds the academy uses, had to sit on the floor each day in class as they had no desks. As a result, Kehler agreed to supply 100 desks along with $10,000 to be used at the discretion of the Principal for the benefit of the school. In both cases, supporting the hockey academy and the kindergarten class, Kehler encouraged the girls to expect more from life, and to challenge some of the notions that determined who they are and what they can be.

So what is it that drives Bruce to give so much to so many? Growing up in Campbell River, Bruce always enjoyed the fact his father, Abe Kehler, played the role of Santa Claus, complete with the big beard, belly and heart, at the local shopping mall. Seeing the joy that it brought to children over many years has stayed with Bruce throughout his life, inspiring Bruce to carry on his father’s legacy of giving.

After marrying at a young age and building a successful career and business in the building supplies and hardware industry, Bruce has become increasingly involved in the South Asian community. Feeling equally at home in the Temple as he does anywhere else, he truly is a white man with a brown heart, and he prides himself on living by the phrase, ‘I see no colour, and I see no gender!’ And he means it as his actions have shown.

It is through his desire to give, and his love of the South Asian community that gave rise to his latest creation: the Desi Santa! As Bruce was searching for a way to give and bring joy across cultures, he was struck by the idea to combine elements of his past with his dream for giving today in a global context. For a man whose heart truly does guide his actions, it came naturally to combine elements of what made him happy for so many years, with his desire spread joy and happiness today. Having seen the joy that Santa brings through his father’s work as Santa Claus and building on his own history of giving to create a lasting benefit, he brought the best elements of both to his creation: The Desi Santa.

After creating the concept, he shared his idea with Suki Pangalia, CEO of AAJ Magazine, and his Marketing and Business Development Assistant at Canex Building Supplies, Rabina Anjum, who became the natural choice to be The Desi’s Santa’s helper. And of course, no Santa (or his helper), is complete without a Santa costume, so Rabina got to work on creating a suitable costume for The Desi Santa. Bringing together elements of Santa’s origins in Europe and North America with inputs from South Asia gave Desi Santa and his helper a look that clearly says Santa with a South Asian twist. Once the costumes were complete, Desi Santa was ready to board his own purpose built transport. He exchanged the sleigh and reindeer for a sleigh-inspired tricycle rickshaw, also designed by Rabina, complete with bells, pedals and room for his helper and all of those gifts.

Now with Christmas approaching, the Desi Santa and his helper have already been busy spreading cheer and good wishes to all that they meet. With so much to do and so much to give, they made their debut appearance at the Surrey Board of Trade’s Annual Surrey Business Excellence Awards night on November 3rd, hosted by the board’s Chief Executive Officer Anita Huberman, and Chief Operating Officer Indra Bhan at the Sheraton Guildford. During the evening, over 400 attendees from local and national businesses enjoyed mingling with the Desi Santa and his helper and sharing in the Christmas spirit.

Then, only a few days later, the Desi Santa was busy again spreading the universal dream of Christmas across cultures, this time bringing joy and happiness to Seniors at PIC’s Assisted Living South Asian Seniors’ Christmas party on November 8th. Accompanied by his eager helper, along with Inderjeet Hundal and Charn Gill, they gave gifts of mugs and candy to everyone present.

For the Grand Finale, The Desi Santa Will Be Coming to Town when he attends the Candy Land Kids Christmas Party in partnership with AAJ Magazine and Canex Building Supplies on Sunday December 18th at the Ultimate Banquet Hall’s Christmas Celebration. With entertainment and activities for both the young and the young at heart, the Desi Santa will be spreading joy and happiness just as Abe Kehler did for so many years in Campbell River.

It is through his desire to give, and his love of the South Asian community that gave rise to his latest creation: the Desi Santa!

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