Oak Bay’s Rob Reid earned the Generosity of Spirit Award during the during the sold-out National Philanthropy Day Awards event at the Fairmont Empress Hotel Nov. 17.
Reid was nominated by the Victoria Cool Aid Society for his work with the Every Step Counts program.
Since it began four years ago, Every Step Counts has helped more than 425 people struggling to overcome mental illness, addictions and homelessness to make positive change in their lives through active living.
“It started out as a program around homelessness but it’s more than that … most of them would have a home but there’s a reason they are there. They may be shut in or in recovery,” he said.
“I don’t have the background who’s there and that’s part of the equalizing effect – we’re all just there to get out and be active.”
Every Step Counts came to fruition in 2009, after the year before, someone from the Victoria Foundation called Reid after hearing about a similar Philadelphia program, looking to duplicate it in Victoria. Victoria Foundation kicked in funding and Victoria Cool Aid Society became the co-ordinator.
“It’s about getting people who have been vulnerable back to health through physical activity,” Reid said.
“I came in as a volunteer and a sponsor where we would gift footwear to participants who kept coming out and got settled in as longtime participants.”
Recruits and volunteer community participants meet twice a week for a run or walk – at participant-appropriate levels – followed by healthy snacks.
Short talks cover various topics such as correct running form, healthy eating, tips and tricks. Participants have cited longer sleeps, reduced anxiety, weight loss, increased energy, improved moods and new friends.
“Everyone leaves their issues at the door and it’s all about getting out and getting physical,” Reid said.
“It’s been a great therapeutic program, for the volunteers I think as much as the participants. Any physical activity is great for a our mental health and then my Buddhist side would say giving back and doing charity work is good for the spirit as well.”
Part of his philanthropic award is recognizing Reid’s constant work to keep the program alive, despite cuts to funding.
“I’m just fortunate that I’ve been in business and seen success where I have time and understanding staff so I can get involved,” said the owner of owner of New Balance Victoria and Frontrunners Victoria.
“People talk about retirement, I feel like being self-employed I’m able to do what I want when it comes to the business. This is one of the four or five things I’m involved in.”
He also chairs the five-year, $5 million campaign to build 360 homes in Victoria and has another iron in the fire, a centre to honour Terry Fox in Vancouver. Another is the coming presentation of Us and Them by local filmmaker Krista Loughton, following the lives of four homeless people for years.
“One could almost say one shouldn’t say anything about homelessness until they see this movie,” Reid said. “We’re about educating people about the subject through this film.”
Us and Them showed at Victoria city hall Dec. 3 and is at the Vic Theatre Dec. 9.
“I get excited with different projects like that. It’s very impactful,” Reid said.
Visit coolaid.org to learn more about the Every Step Counts program.
“We’re leading the charge in doing this. There aren’t any other cities in Canada that I know of that have picked this up yet,” he said.
“Heartfelt funders just have to get behind it and see the difference it can make in a life. It’s filling the needs of a lot of people … even seniors that need a group to get some social life with.”