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Hometown Star “Humbling” For Treliving

They came out to celebrate a hometown boy who made it big.

Hundreds of current and former Virdenites, friends, family, well-wishers and special guests filled the Aud Theatre on Monday, July 11 for a ceremony marking the induction of entrepreneur and philanthropist Jim Treliving into Canada's Walk of Fame. 

A special musical performance, organized by long-time choral conductor and recently retired music teacher Michelle Chyzyk, served as a prelude to the official program. It brought vocalists, Tara Mathew of Winnipeg and Brady Chyzyk of Brandon, to the Aud stage, backed up by pianist Heather Klassen, bassist Matt Kozicki and drummer Graydon Cramer. 

Since 2017, the Cineplex “Hometown Star” inductees have been afforded an opportunity to celebrate in their hometown with the public in attendance, a plaque, special guests and music. Although Treliving officially received his Walk of Fame Star in Toronto in 2019, the local presentation was postponed until now due to the global pandemic. Jeffrey Latimer, Chief Executive Officer of Canada's Walk of Fame, presented a framed replica which will be prominently displayed in Virden.    

“Jim's life and Jim's success has taken him all over Canada and all over the world, and today it's an honour to be back in the town where he began and maybe learn a little bit more about what's in the water here in Virden,” Latimer said. “By bringing Canada's Walk of Fame inductees back to their hometowns, we’re not only honouring them, we're honouring all of the people what gave them their start. We're celebrating with friends and with family, in the places where they began their journey.”

Receiving warm applause as he made his way to the stage, Treliving fondly reminisced about his formative years in Virden, growing up alongside his sisters and parents Ted and Mina who owned and operated a barber shop where Scotiabank now sits on Nelson Street.     

“I’m home. I feel comfortable. It’s just like taking a big weight off your shoulders,” he said of his return to the community. “I smelled the air for the first time in a long, long time and thought, ‘This is really neat.’ I feel that being back in this part of the world…it’s hard to describe…just that feeling or safeness and quiet. I'd like to thank the people that I grew up around in this town. It was fun, it was great. You walked down the street and everybody said hello. You weren't scared of anything. You'd leave the house on Saturdays to go out and play hockey on the street in the winter, and you were just gone on your bike the rest of the day in the summer. There was no worrying about somebody coming by or doing something silly.”   

Now 81, Treliving has gained notoriety for both his savvy deal-making through 15 seasons of the CBC reality show Dragon's Den as well as his philanthropic work. His father inspired him, as he would regularly give free haircuts to seniors. Since then, he has created the Boston Pizza Foundation – Future Prospects, which has helped raise and donate over $33 million to Canadian charities. 

“It's great...you live really well,” he said of his success in business. “But, there’s a time to give back.  Everybody should be thinking about that. As my dad used to say, there's no Brinks truck following the hearse down to the graveyard. You can't take it with you. You better help people that need it.”

 

THEATRE RECEIVES FUNDS

As a Canada’s Walk of Fame inductee, Treliving received $10,000 to go towards a charity or worthy cause of his choice. He decided to present the funds to the Aud, and take it one step further with a matching personal donation. Chairperson Jean Anne Overand and Vice-Chairperson Brad Hayward were caught off guard by the generosity.   

“Thanks to Canada’s Walk of Fame and Jim and Sandi for your generous donations,” Hayward said.  “We are so touched. The kindness will go a long way for us.” Hayward said the funds will assist with a couple of major projects being considered for the future.     

“We have decisions to make with regards to our seating,” he said. “We need to look at changing and fixing our seating. It's a huge project. Also, the expansion of our backstage. To make it more of a functioning theatre. The talent in our community is incredible. Jim, you've led us to believe that we can achieve whatever we dream. A lot of the dreams start right here, on this stage. Your donation will provide future ‘Aud Experiences’ for our small town.”

“I look at it (The Auditorium Theatre) as a person from Virden,” Treliving said. “I remember standing over there as a 12-year-old and doing spoken poetry for my school. It was the first time I'd ever been in front of an audience.”

After the ceremony, he reflected on his decision to make his own contribution.

I think the biggest thing is giving back, again, to make sure there’s enough,” he said. “It’s maybe not my last donation. Maybe when they get going, I want to do something else. But when I remember this place, I remember it because it was the first movie theatre I ever went to. I went with my grandmother and we saw a Gene Autry movie - The Singing Cowboy. It was before the oil boom as they called it. There was no Derrick Theatre. We lived just two blocks from here to so we walked. I remember my dad gave me twenty-five cents on a Saturday afternoon. Fifteen cents for the movie…ten cents to buy a pop and popcorn. That was what this town was all about. We had fun. We were high-fiving, eating a bag of popcorn. We weren’t talking about anything else…we were just friends. I looked at friends of mine tonight as I was coming out of here. I played football with those guys and you know, where did that 70 years go? Because we were fifteen…ten…and now we’re (pauses) over 80.”

On behalf of Mark Keown, Principal of Virden Collegiate, Hayward presented Treliving with a plaque inducting him into the school's Wall of Fame. Since 2008, alumni who have gained prominence at the provincial, national or international level have been recognized for outstanding achievements in their field. A plaque will be placed in the school to mark the occasion.

“I wish I could have graduated,” Treliving said. “It's great to be back in my hometown and be honoured by the high school that I went to. We had a lot of fun here. We did play good hockey and we had some championship football teams as well. I had a chance to play, had some good friends there and we had a great time.”

Treliving attended VCI from 1956 to 1959, opting to leave at age 18 for an eight-year stint in the RCMP. He credits his time as a Mountie as preparing him well for the demanding world of business.

“The greatest thing that happened to me was the structure they (RCMP) had,” he said. “The discipline I learned there carried me to this day.” 

After dining at the Boston Pizza and Spaghetti House in Edmonton in 1966, he acquired the franchise rights and opened his own location two years later in Penticton, B.C. That grew to 18 locations, and the rest, as they say, is history, as he now oversees a chain of over 400 restaurants as Chairman and Owner of Boston Pizza International. He is also a published author, having penned the book Decisions – Making the Right Ones and Righting the Wrong Ones, and has received the Order of Canada.

At 81, Treliving still enjoys going to work every day, and recalls the fun times of the business's formative years.  

“I've said to this day, I never had a job with Boston Pizza,” he said. “It was just a day to go to work and meet people. That was the fun part of it, and still is. I'm not retired. I'm not going away. I love what I do. It all came from this town and the people I know in this town. I enjoyed everything about this town.  I still call it home, when people say “Where are you from?” I say I live in Vancouver, but Virden, Manitoba is my home.”

Six-time Olympic medalist and four-time world champion speedskater Cindy Klassen, a Winnipeg native who now resides in Alberta, received her Hometown Star earlier in the day at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg. She accompanied Treliving to Virden for his honour as well.