So how much do you love Bob?

So how much do you love Bob?

This year's grand marshal for Reynoldsburg's Fourth of July parade, Bob Martin, will have the Reynoldsburg Thunder Special Olympics team marching behind him, wearing "We love Bob" T-shirts.

Martin, 55, was instrumental in starting the Reynoldsburg Special Olympics and has been a longtime volunteer.

"As soon as I learned I was selected as grand marshal, I contacted the team," he said. "I love these kids and I want them to march with me in the parade."

Martin said he wanted to do more than "just sit in a car and do the princess wave."

"Since I can't throw candy from the car, the kids will be doing that, wearing special T-shirts that say 'We love Bob.' They are going to sell the T-shirts for $10 each and five of those dollars goes back to support the Reynoldsburg Special Olympics," he said.

He is hoping other people will also step up to support the team.

"I'd love to see people wearing those T-shirts as they watch the parade," he said. "I guess we'll see how many people love Bob. If I see people lined up on the street wearing those T-shirts, I know the Special Olympics will make plenty of money."

Orders can be placed by calling Brooke Johnson at 614-402-4294. Extra large "big boy" sizes are available for $12 each.

Martin should know about T-shirts -- his family has been making them at Ohio Select in Reynoldsburg for more than 43 years. Started in 1970 by Martin's father, Chuck, the company is owned by Jean Martin, his mother. Martin has run the business since his dad died of cancer in 1990.

A 1977 graduate of Pickerington High School, Martin served in the U.S. Navy from 1977 to 1981. He has been a Reynoldsburg resident since 1989 and has served as president of the Jaycees and Lions Club; board member of the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival Committee; and member of the Reynoldsburg VFW, Knights of Columbus and the Columbus Optimist Club.

He and his wife, Sandy, have been married for more than 13 years.

Martin's support of kids with special needs began very early.

"My dad was a Grand Knight with Knights of Columbus and he worked on the Measure Up campaign for MRDD," he said. "People don't realize that all of that started in the Reynoldsburg area. My dad and many volunteers would throw a Christmas party for the special needs children, who in the '60s went to satellite schools.

"I remember being 8 years old and singing Christmas carols at a school, with my grandparents playing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus," he said. "The kids and people we call handicapped are the most wonderful people -- they are kind and caring and loving."

He remembers his first time volunteering for "tent city" at a Special Olympics athletic competition at Ohio State University.

"I watched 15 kids running track and saw that each time a kid crossed the finish line, instead of running around and waving, he or she immediately turned around and clapped for the next person in line," he said.

"By the end of the race, the last kid was struggling to finish and all the other kids were cheering him on. They all came together in one big hugging scrum at the end."

Riding in Reynoldsburg's July 4 parade instead of helping to run it will be a big change for Martin. As parade marshal for many years, it was his job to make sure all floats and parade units were lined up in the correct order.

"Basically, I was on Retton Avenue with my clipboard and a Lions Club volunteer was at every 10 units," he said. "We always lined it up on paper first, then marked off the street at 7 a.m. the morning of the parade."

This year's parade theme is "Honoring Our Local Heroes." It begins at 10 a.m. July 4 at Rosehill Road and East Main Street.

Martin said there are a lot of "unsung heroes" volunteering behind the scenes at city events.

"After 20-some years, I'm taking a year or so off because the economy dictates I need to concentrate on my business," he said. "This is a great community and there are wonderful people here, but a lot of our volunteers are aging and we need some young people to step up.

"We have the brains and the know-how, but we need the strong backs of a younger generation," he said.

Martin said he appreciates being recognized, but said, "I didn't do it on my own."

"There are so many great people out there volunteering -- no one does it by themselves," he said. "I have always been blessed to have many fantastic people working with me."