A smile rarely leaves the face of David Sidoo, a charming, affable star football player turned successful business man, and philanthropist. You could easily be fooled into thinking he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
However, his is a rags to riches story, which could only have been possible with the support of strong mentors in his life.
His parents had the biggest influence, particularly his father who worked the graveyard shift at the local sawmill. He had an incredible work ethic, never missing a day of work in 20 years, but still finding time to help those in need. Later on, his father-in-law Malkit Parhar, a pillar in the South Asian community during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, was also a powerful role-model.
David grew up in what was considered a tough neighbourhood in New Westminster.
“We had a big family and mom didn’t work, so the finances fell on dad’s shoulders, but my parents would always try and help neighbours who were struggling.”
“Seeing that early on in my life – my parents and in-laws – not having much and giving what they could – instilled in me, that if I did well, I would help however I could.”
Later, his UBC football head coach Frank Smith and assistant coach Bob Laycoe provided a lesson in grace and compassion when David was in his third year at university. He was working two part-time jobs, and at risk of having to drop out of university, when his father died of a heart attack. They put their arms around him and reassuringly said, “You’re going to play professional football and make something of your life. You’ve got to stay in school and we’re going to support you however we can.”
They helped David secure scholarships and get a better paying job. He thrived at school and at football, where he was the captain of UBC’s first ever football national championship team. In 1982, David left UBC with a BA in physical education and a minor in business.
He was the first Indo-Canadian to be drafted into the CFL, playing five seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and a short stint with the BC Lions. David parlayed that early notoriety into a successful career as an entrepreneur, which is now allowing him to give back in a full-circle moment kind of way.
“I’ll never forget how I felt when my coaches did that for me. I would do anything for those two men,” says David.
And, true to his word, David has used his wealth to support causes close to his heart, including youth sports, breakfast programs for grade school children, and the homeless.
He became involved with Streetohome after he found out about the organization from his fellow business colleagues, John Mackay and Frank Giustra, founding members of the board. “When they are involved with something, I know they’re going to make things happen.”
“When others ask me why the private sector should invest in these types of initiatives, I say it’s because sometimes donors can get issues resolved faster than government.”
Closing out his fifth decade, David still has a boyish charm, and none of the weariness of life. He’s curious, passionate, and engaged when he speaks about how he wants to contribute to his community.
“I love being hands-on,” says David, “I’m fortunate to be able to write a cheque, but I want to know about the issues and the people I’m helping and supporting, and I want to get my hands dirty.”
Along with his wife Manjy, and sons Jordan and Dylan, he’s served breakfast to at-risk youth and school children in the DTES, handed out blankets to the homeless in the dead of winter, and spoken to countless homeless individuals.
“Homelessness is about people who are struggling, or who have a substance abuse, or mental health issue. It’s not about people who aren’t willing to work hard and take help. They just need to be given an opportunity. They need to be valued.”
David is paying it forward, just like he said he would.