• Quentin von Essen | intouch magazine | #03 august

JAMES REID | Pharmacist on a mission

He’s the pharmacist determined to make a difference to the lives of those less fortunate. Businessman, pharmacist, husband, father and sportsman, James Reid is also the founder and director of Run Reid an organisation set up to raise funds for Australian charities.

While James is passionate about his career as a pharmacist, he is just as committed to making a difference in this world and would love to spend his time equally between the two activities. I met with James over a cup of coffee to discuss what drives this man on a mission.

Your accent is not entirely Australian, so where were you born and raised? I was born, raised and schooled in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire in North West England, but left for Australia in 2005 at the age of 27.

In the time you have lived in Australia, have you always lived in Newcastle – if not where else have you lived and worked? I have lived in Newcastle for ten years – the entire time I have been in Australia. I arrived in Australia on a sponsored visa which required me to live and work in a non-major city. Newcastle was the biggest city I could live and work in as per the terms of my visa. Incidentally it was my preferred choice.

What made you want to become a pharmacist? When I was 14 years old I attended a career fair and was told that I was 100% guaranteed to get a job if I studied to become a pharmacist. That was it – decision made! Later I also grew to like the idea of living within and working closely within a community in a job that was about helping people.

I like knowing and being in a position to help customers. I love the fact that they get to know us and even seek us out for help and advice. It’s a good feeling.

How did you get there? What roles have you had and what other career choices have you made leading up to being a Pharmacist and Director of Doc's Mega Save Chemist in Newcastle? I graduated from the University of Manchester in 2001 with a master’s degree in pharmacy. I then completed my internship in Sale, Manchester and was employed as a pharmacist at Tesco. After 6 months I was promoted to the role of pharmacy manager and later promoted to Regional Pharmacy Manager where I ran 55 pharmacies across Scotland and the north east of England.

At that time a friend and I were talking about travelling to Australia to attend the World Cup in 2003. Unfortunately he developed a brain tumour and soon passed away. I decided to go ahead and travel to Australia anyway with a 12 month work contract. That was 2005 and in 2006 I started working for the Docs group of pharmacies. In 2010 I purchased a share of the business.

With fellow business partners and co-owners Michael Connors and Tim Cush we then opened the Marketown business in 2011, merging two former Doc’s stores in Newcastle and Charlestown. A significant risk at the time – but after a few years of hard work and some business savvy it is paying off.

In 2013 you were awarded The Young Business Executive (Age 18-35) award – how did that feel? Absolutely awesome! For me this was a great albeit unexpected award to win and a huge testament to the amount of hard work my partners and staff have put in the months leading up to the award.

You were very active in sport at age 21 – then what happened? It was while still at University, young and fit, and living the dream as it were that I fell and broke my back – crushing my vertebrate while on a weekend snowboarding trip. I was very badly injured and was told that I would be fortunate to ever walk again.

"For the next 12 months I wore a back brace and attended regular physiotherapy sessions in hospital before being given the all clear. In fact I will never forget the surgeons words which were that I "was an extremely lucky man so don’t waste it".

To my thinking I had been given a second chance and I decided to live my life according to those words and to not waste a moment. I decided then to do more for those less fortunate than me and for those who cannot necessarily fend for themselves and give back to the community.

Is this what initiated your involvement with raising funds and working with various charities? Yes it is. I am also a strong believer that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. As an ordinary person with a day job, a wife and family I decided that this would become my slogan. I now devote my spare time to keeping myself fit, encouraging others to keep fit while at the same time raising money for charity.

I now invest my time in a different charity every year – raising awareness for that charity and creating events to raise money at the same time. I tend to choose non-mainsteam charities and charities such as Ronald McDonald House are very close to my heart.

I also read somewhere that you ran across the Sahara for charity – what was that about? In 2013 myself and a few friends decided to do something extraordinary and raise funds for Ronald MacDonald House at the same time.

"We ended up raising $30,000 for Ronald McDonald House by completing the 250-kilometre Marathon de Sable, a multi-stage race across the Sahara desert and also considered to be the world’s toughest endurance race."

So how then did Run Reid eventuate? After winning the Young Business Executive Award, I realised there was an opportunity to raise money on an ongoing basis. In other words, rather than doing just one major event a year, we could be a little more ambitious and include a number of minor events throughout the year - and all for the purpose of raising funds for charity.

To do this, the company Run Reid was established which would be the platform to support those charities that needed help. Run Reid is now more than just me.

What was your first Run Reid Project? Soon after Run Reid was established, I became aware of "Save Our Sons" – a Sydney based charity founded by train driver Elie Eid, whose son has Duchenne muscular Dystrophy (DMD) - a deadly degenerative disease which affects only boys and attacks the muscle tissue of its victims who usually do not live beyond 20.

My heart went out to this extraordinary family and in April this year, myself and three friends, ran 350 kilometres from Newcastle to Sydney while pushing a pram to raise awareness and funds to have clinical trials into DMD in Australia. A second group then took over for the second leg and pushed the pram to Canberra where they presented a petition to the Government to start trials for DMD in Australia. I believe at that stage our efforts had raised approximately $150,000 and is still ongoing with another fund raising event planned for this month.

The situation is that there are clinical trials taking place in the USA and United Kingdom and Save Our Sons is aiming to raise $3.5million towards funding clinic trials in Australia.

You and your wife Mary have a young baby boy... Does this fact really drive the reality and the cruelty of this disease to you? Definitely! As a father of a 4 month old son, it has all become extremely relevant to me. Especially when it comes to Save Our Sons as DMD affects only boys 99% of the time and the reality is that it is a death sentence until we can find a cure for it. Also, it is only discovered at around the two year old mark. I can really feel Elie Eid’s anguish and frustration that there are currently no clinical trials for DMD in Australia. He has dedicated his life to his son and helping to find a cure. To do what he is doing is just so admirable, but I get where he gets his motivation.

What other projects are you involved in? I will soon be participating in the new television series "Life Changing Adventures" hosted by Ricki-Lee Coulter which started filming in April, and will be going to air later this year on Channel 7.

The show takes 10 ordinary people from four different states and puts them through their paces, involving physically demanding challenges to raise money for charity. The NSW team has Ronald McDonald House as their nominated charity – hence my involvement.

Sounds Interesting and nothing like we have seen on TV before. Is this series filmed at Australian destinations only? The challenges can take place anywhere in the world – all we know is that we will get picked up on the day and taken somewhere unknown to all of us. It’s supposed to be both mentally and physically challenging but also fun. The South Australian team have already been filmed with their challenges taking place in Queensland and I believe their charity is CanDo4Kids. The aim is to encourage people to work together to accomplish these tasks. The more people that finish the challenges, the more money is raised. I believe there is a New Zealand challenge included in the series.

How does the fund raising work and just how do the nominated charities benefit? There are 4 episodes featuring teams from 4 states with each team fielding 10 contestants. Each state nominates their chosen charity. Each contestant then needs to raise at least $15,000 to participate in the show. This money can be raised in any way they choose and is a tax deductable donation that goes directly to the charity. Regardless of what happens on the show, the charity receives at least $150,000. It does not have to be limited to that amount as we can raise as much money as we want.

Considering you have to do all the hard work, do you get to know how the money is used? I can only speak for our charity and in our case I am personally thrilled to learn that all funds will be going to the Ronald McDonald Family Room which will be built within the extended Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at John Hunter Hospital.

How are you aiming to raise the money? In my case I am looking for a sleeve sponsor for all my clothing that will be worn on the show which is broadcast by Channel 7. This can be in the form of donation or sponsorship.

I also have two planned events. The first is being held on the 28th of August and will be a comedy lunch event involving the world renown comedian Sam McCool. It’s a lunchtime gig with beer and food and a raffle raising money for the show.

Then on the 12th of September there will be a degustation dinner at the Crown and Anchor involving two 2 hat chefs providing a 5 course meal with matching wines provided by Wine Selectors. Tickets will be on sale soon.

So if anyone is interested in making a tax deductable donation or is interested in being a sponsor for the Life Changing Adventures show please contact us at www.runreid.com.au

Are any other Novocastrians involved in this television series? Yes - I believe that at least 3 other candidates are from Newcastle - I think one works in real estate, one is a teacher and the other works for McDonalds. The others making up the ten are from all over NSW – including the Central Coast, Foster, Wollongong and Tamworth.

Are there any other "big hairy audacious goals" on the horizon? Yes we have one ultimate goal – the "monster" of all goals and that is to run coast to coast across Australia. A challenge that will involve a series of groups running 100km stages. I am very fortunate to be passionate about what I do. I love my job as a pharmacist and I love the fact that through Run Reid we are able to make a difference. The perfect situation for me would to be able to spend my time equally between the two.

Let’s call this my self-fulfilling prophecy.

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