Teenager who started not-for-profit business to help ease anxiety wins 2021 Terry Fox Award

Reid Lehner had no plans to win any awards when he started a not-for-profit business at 16, but that’s exactly what happened.

Lehner, who began “Reid’s Baskets ‘N Things” at 16-years-old, received the Terry Fox Award on Sept. 7 at Prince Albert City Hall for emulating the traits and inspiration of Terry Fox.

It was a welcome surprise for the now 17-year-old, who started making and selling gift baskets as a way to cope with severe anxiety brought on by autism.

“I was very humbled and proud, and thankful,” Lehner said shortly after being recognized at the Sept. 7 city council meeting. “I was very thankful for a community that allowed me to do such a thing.”

Lehner and his family donate all profits from Reid’s Baskets ‘N Things back into the community. He’s also donated a large number of gift baskets and hampers, including 140 for the Prince Albert Food Bank, and 30 for the Prince Albert Christmas dinner last year.

He also supplies giveaways and sponsorships for groups like the SPCA and Canadian Cancer Society, and often seeks out families in need who have fallen on hard times.

The baskets include candy, coffee, trinkets and other items that Reid shops for with his mother’s assistance. He then builds the baskets himself.

Coun. Ted Zurakowski and Mayor Greg Dionne presented Lehner with the Terry Fox Award at the Sept. 7 meeting. Zurakowski called Lehner a role model for Prince Albert youth, and a big part of the community.

“Reid Lehner, like Terry Fox, shows courage every day,” Zurakowski said during the presentation. “He shows perseverance, and Reid, you show strength—all of this through your day-to-day activities, and in operating a small business, despite challenges. Your service to the community of Prince Albert is exemplary.”

While Lehner enjoys running his own business, he didn’t start like a traditional entrepreneur. He struggled with social interaction and communication in school due to autism, and eventually began homeschooling after suffering two to three anxiety episodes per day.

His health troubles required constant supervision and care, but he missed the social interactions of being out of the house. The gift basket business has allowed him to interact with people in a friendly, less stressful way.

“I always told Reid when he was staying home … (that) he had way too much to offer to be sitting in the living room on the couch and for people not to benefit from it,” said Lehner’s mom, Courtney, who was one of several family members to attend the award ceremony. “I think we hit the nail on the head with this one. Now everybody is able to see what he has to offer, which is wonderful. He brings smiles to everybody’s faces.”

Courtney, like her son, was a bit surprised to hear he won the Terry Fox Award, but those feelings soon gave way to gratitude and pride.

“Obviously, any time you hear something like this, you’re very shocked and humbled and thrilled and proud,” she said. “All of the above. Yes, so many emotions.”

Lehner is the 40th youth resident to win the Terry Fox Award. The City of Prince Albert established the award and citation in 1981 to perpetuate the memory of Terry Fox’s heroic achievements while acknowledging a local recipient with similar ideals.

The next call for nominations will go out early in 2022.

Previous winners of the Terry Fox Award include Chelsea Mitchell (2020), Elayna Greenwood (2019), Donovan Fraser (2017-18), and Katie Enequist (2016).