Joseph “Joe” Roberts, a Willoughby resident, is one of 18 people from throughout B.C. who will receive the province’s Medal of Good Citizenship.
Launched in 2015, the Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward.
Roberts overcame a homeless youth on the streets of East Vancouver and drug addiction in the 1980s to make the Dean’s List as an Honour Roll graduate at Loyalist College in Belleville – earning two diplomas in business.
After leaving the business world in the early 2000s, he began his career as a motivational speaker under the name Skid Row CEO.
“In 1989, I made a promise to pay it forward if I got off the streets,” Roberts said. “Our most important work is done in schools so we can inspire, educate, and empower students so they can see what they can do to create change.”
In 2016/2017, he made national headlines by pushing a shopping cart across Canada over a 17 month period for a campaign called The Push for Change.
Robert’s aim was to raise funds and awareness to prevent youth homelessness; a mission that still continues to this day.
“We are now leveraging an inspirational story to empower the local community,” Roberts explained. “The walking is over but the reason why we did it continues – it can be used as a backstory to fight youth homelessness.”
READ MORE: Have shopping cart, will travel
The walk raised $570,000 which was donated to charitable partners and organizations such as Raising the Roof.
In September of 2017, weeks after the Push for Change ended, Roberts and his wife began looking for a new home.
“We were driving through Langley and my wife Marie said ‘I love this place – this is where I want to live’,” he said.
Roberts has received many award including The Governor General of Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal in 2018, the Senate 150 Anniversary Medal in 2017, and a nomination by Maclean’s Magazine as one of 10 Canadians that make a difference in 2003.
The motivational speaker has also published several books including Don’t Buy the Lie About Getting High, Fred the Cat, and his best-seller 7 Secrets to Profit from Adversity.
The Medal of Good Citizenship is meant to reflect the generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions of the recipient to community life.
Roberts stressed that people don’t have to do something extraordinary to make a difference.
“You don’t have to push a shopping cart across the country to create change. It’s as simple as finding what you are passionate about and making one small promise to do something,” Roberts explained.
“Each one of us has something we are passionate about… senior care… the environment… anti-bulling… we can change our community, our country, our world by following that passion.”
He added that his organization, The Push for Change, will launch The Promise Project next year in hopes of getting youth engaged in their passions to make a difference through $5,000 charitable grants.
Recipients were nominated by members of their communities.
Roberts will receive his medal in January at the Legislature in Victoria.
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