Torchbearer for others
VIM KOCHHAR is a successful engineer and store owner, but it’s his
volunteer work for the physically disabled that makes him an icon
Toronto-based Vim Kochhar, a professional engineer and furniture store owner, proves that making a living isn’t all that matters in life. In the end,
it’s what you do for others that counts.
Kochhar, founder of the Canadian Foundation
for Physically Disabled Persons, spends just 10
percent of his time at ‘work,’ and dedicates the
other 90 percent of his time to volunteering.
But for him, it is the volunteer work that pays
huge dividends. His foundation has raised over
$22 million for the disabled since it was founded
in 1985, and today he is nothing less than an icon
to Canada’s physically challenged.
“This money has been utilized to help people
with disabilities and to bring about awareness that
there’s no limit to what people with disabilities can
do. What the rest of us need to do is to make sure
we are not standing in their way,” Kocchar says.
His proudest moment was in 1996 when he
organized a country-wide marathon to create
awareness and raise funds. Though the initiative
took him two exhausting years to prepare, he
raised $2 million for the foundation.
He’s also heavily involved with the Paralympics
Games, having given $4 million to the cause, and
becomes emotional when talking about his experiences.
“We have participated in every Paralympics
Games. I went to Atlanta and China for these
games and each year my wife Dorothy has
gone…We took the message of Paralympics to the
prime minister of Canada, every provincial and
territorial premier, every Lieutenant Governor and
every politician in 700 communities.”
“Our work is still not done,” he adds. “My ambi-
tion is to bring Paralympics gold to the level of
Olympics gold medals. When we started there was
only 1 percent recognition for Paralympics in
Canada. Now it is close to 30 percent. If we cross
50 percent, I will be very happy.”
Kochhar’s annual signature event is the
Valentine Gala, which some people call the sec-
ond-most important social event in Toronto’s cal-
endar, next only to the Brazilian Ball. At this year’s
gala, he invited all the Canadian Paralympics ath-
letes who won medals at the Beijing games to
Toronto to honor them.
Kochhar follows a simple dictum: You have to spend good
money to raise good money. Over the years he has invited the
likes of Bob Hope and George Burns to Toronto to perform.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has now named Kochhar the
director-trustee on the Museum of Human Rights in
Winnipeg, Manitoba, a $300-million project created by
Parliament Act. He’s the only one representing Ontario on the
museum’s advisory board.
For his work for the physically disabled, Kochhar is a recipient of the Order of Ontario (1995), a Humanitarian Award
from the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce and special
recognition from the Ontario Lieutenant Governor for 25 years
of Valentine galas.
Kochhar is also something of a philosopher.At his Valentine
Galas, he’s fond of reciting a favorite aphorism: ‘A wheelchair
is not a symbol of disability. It is a symbol of freedom for people who can’t walk.’