For those who aren’t familiar with Back to Function and Bell Chiropractic, it might be easy to pass the Colborne Street business and be oblivious to everything that’s happening inside.
Sports chiropractors, sports medicine physicians, physiotherapists, kinesiologists and massage therapists are some of the moving parts, working together to provide clients with comprehensive treatment.
“The reason for the success of Back to Function is the people behind it,” owner Larry Bell said Tuesday night at the Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club, where he won the 18th annual William (Bill) Swinimer Business Leader of the Year Award.
Bell graduated as a chiropractor in 1977. About a decade later, he was one of few chiropractors chosen to help athletes at the African Games in Nigeria.
It was Bell’s world travels that led to connections with other specialists and, ultimately, to the creation of Back to Function in the early ’90s.
Over the years, Back to Function has worked with more than 34,000 clients, including Olympians and other high-level athletes.
While his professional experience is impressive, he won this year’s Swinimer award for a number of reasons, including his dedication to the community.
He has supported various local causes — physician recruitment, the Lighthouse shelter, The Sharing Place Food Bank and the Mariposa Folk Festival, to name a few.
Also in the running for this year’s award were Derek Kerwin, Kristopher Orchard-Campbell and Jordan Rossman. Bell said he was surprised to hear his name called from the lot.
“They were all very capable and worthy,” he said of his fellow nominees.
Before the winner was announced, each nominee gave a speech.
Orchard-Campbell — who owns Kristopher Orchard Designs and, with his husband, Jamie Campbell, runs OC Emporium and the newly opened 6 Doors Up Interiors — moved to Orillia nine years ago. He came from a northern Ontario town of about 400 people.
“We knew everybody,” he said. “The one thing this town has that my small town didn’t is community. Everyone takes care of each other.”
That sense of community became clear when he wanted to go into business.
“You have a little idea and one person listens and that’s all it takes,” he said, becoming emotional as he singled out former Swinimer award winner Gini Stringer for her support.
Rossman, of Streeter Rossman Real Estate Professionals and the creator of the Why Orillia video interview series, said being nominated was “very special.”
He started Why Orillia as a way to shine a spotlight on the people who make the Sunshine City what it is.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “They support each other and they look out for each other.”
A kilt-clad Kerwin then took to the microphone to say thanks for the nomination.
He moved to Orillia four years ago and started his business, Men In Kilts, which provides window cleaning and other maintenance services in the region.
“I was just that weird guy in a kilt. Nobody knew what I did,” he said.
That quickly changed.
“I never knew how welcoming this community could be,” Kerwin said. “I came from a bad past and I turned my life around. I want to give back.”
He has done so by volunteering time, money and services to the Orillia Youth Centre, the Orillia Scottish Festival and other organizations and causes.
Community and collaboration emerged as the themes Tuesday night.
As Bell stated, it takes a village, even to run a business like his. That’s why he took the time to individually thank his staff and provide a brief bio for each of them.
“Thirty-four thousand people didn’t walk through my door to see me,” he said after the event. “By choosing carefully the people that form the team, you want dedication, you want people that are lifelong learners, you want people that serve the community. Our office works on serving. It works on helping.”
Award organizer Betsy Gross thanked all of the nominees and praised them for being employers who are dedicated not only to their businesses, but to their staff, too.
“Bill was such an expert at that,” she said of Swinimer. “I’m very grateful to be able to do this small acknowledgement.”