Reid was just six when his father died during heart surgery. He lived with family friends until his mother was able to support him.
“Having had a loss when I was really young, having people fill that in made an impression on me,” said Reid, who is marking the 25th anniversary of his Frontrunners store on Vancouver Street. He also has New Balance Victoria downtown and is a partner in Frontrunners in Langford. He is devoted to helping others through numerous local and global initiatives.
“I was the kid who couldn’t have the shoes,” Reid said. “That’s why I’m passionate about whether I can get shoes on kids’ feet for activities. Everybody needs to be touched by something to be motivated to get involved.”
In 1996, he founded the Shoes for Youth program with Runners of Compassion, another charity organization he also set up. The Shoes for Youth program has handed out hundreds of shoes to local youth so they can take part in sports. Another favourite is the Victoria Cool Aid Society’s Every Step Counts, created by Reid to encourage marginalized citizens to join a walking and running program. Participants are fitted out with a pair of shoes in this program.
The soft-spoken Reid, 58, a father of four, is looking forward to his first grandchild arriving in June. He said he was shaped by growing up in the 1960s.
He has met the Dalai Lama, quoting the leader of Tibetan Buddhism who said, “My religion is kindness.”
Reid is an advocate for Greater Victoria-owned firms, and has helped staff set up their own stores. “As an entrepreneur, you like building things. I have sort of been living the dream.”
Reid will be the centre of attention at an anniversary party in his honour this Friday when funds are being raised for Shoes for Youth, Every Step Counts and the Terry Fox Foundation, an organization that Reid has long supported. Reid led the drive to have a statue of Fox placed at Mile 0 on Dallas Road in 2005 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope.
Darrell Fox, Terry’s brother, praised Reid’s support for the foundation. “I always refer to Rob as a brother, so it is a solid friendship, and someone I admire greatly,” Fox said.
“We have a mutual interest in running and that brings us together. But I guess our strong bond is Terry. I can say with sincerity that he mirrors my fondness for Terry and I don’t say that lightly. To have someone that you can communicate with who shares the same passion for Terry Fox is something I cherish and I have that opportunity with Rob.”
Last year, Reid was awarded the New Balance Company Riley Award honouring his community work.
Reid is a past chairman of the non-profit Woodwynn Farms organization helping homeless people. Richard Leblanc, executive director, said Reid involvement had a “huge impact” and describes him as charming, dynamic and high-energy.
A runner himself, Reid has fostered and sponsored running events and groups. Frontrunners is a sponsor of the Times Colonist 10K. Reid has served for more than 20 years as race director for the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon, where he waits hours at the finish line to shake hands with all the runners.
Victoria Marathon event manager Cathy Noel said Reid has opened doors in terms of sponsorship and has been able to attract international speakers for the event’s expo.
Reid, a Victoria Marathon Society executive member, is equally supportive of elite athletes and those new to the sport, Noel said. “He just wants people to experience whatever level they can.”
In 2008, Reid stepped into municipal politics, placing behind Dean Fortin for the mayor’s job. After the election, Reid created a new balance in his life. Instead of running 97 to 129 kilometres per week, Reid runs 35 to 40 weekly, and takes time for reading, yoga and meditation.
He refocused on his own businesses, saying he is surrounded by good staff. “I don’t forecast sales numbers. I’m sort of an intuitive business person. I know that I want to get to a certain point in the business and I sort of build the blocks to make it get there.”
Ken Kelly, general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said Reid’s passion for this community and wanting to make a difference is phenomenal. “He is not content to sit on the sidelines.”
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