My email counts have dropped off, so too have my text messages — and while most would be happy, there is a piece of me that misses what seemed like a never-ending buzz of my cell phone related to the Penticton 2016 BC Winter Games.
My role as the director of promotions started some 15 months ago. I took it on with pride as a BC Winter Games alumae (ringette) and the idea of being a part of an event that not only would leave an impact on our city but on young athletes.
As the months went on, and I reminisced on my own experiences at the Games, I realized it is the stories behind the making of the multi-sport event that really impact me this time around as an organizer. I began relaying my story to other potential volunteers of being a participant and how it is only now as an adult that I realized just how important the volunteers are.
I’m not the only one who grasped that. Sitting on the board I learned of another key volunteer, chair of community events Jenny Mitchell.
Many years ago she stood in front of a net defending the goalie (me) as we represented the Thompson-Okanagan Zone 2 in ringette. Just as I was proud to call her a teammate then, I was also proud to call her a fellow volunteer now. She agreed with me that the impact on being a participant played a part of her wanting to volunteer.
I think because of that we both wanted to involve kids who aren’t in the Games as athletes in the volunteer process. Jenny had students come on board as Young Ambassadors, spreading the word about the Games to the elementary schools, my team brought on board kids to learn about photography, reporting, social media and communication skills.
Jenny saw significant growth in her Young Ambassadors, life-changing for quite a few. Just as in the Games news room my team saw kids step up and bring us back stories and quotes that blew some of us away. In fact, many didn’t want to leave after their shifts ended and quite often asked if they could stick around to do more.
Great to see kids be that excited about volunteering their time. But, it was more than that. Jenny put it very eloquently that “sometimes it is so much bigger than sport.” I agree.
It is a connection to the community, feeling a part of something bigger then their home life or school life, learning new skills, becoming leaders, seeing the world through a different lens (pardon the pun) — legacies that we shouldn’t forget about when we look back on hosting the Games.
We already know the impact it left on Marge Noble, a volunteer from the inaugural BC Games held in Penticton in 1978. She happily returned to volunteer again (read her letter on her more recent experience).
I saw more local students volunteering as Special Olympics basketball ambassadors cheering in the stands during the medal rounds. I asked to take their picture and which team they were cheering for. Answer: all of them.
The kid sitting in the back of the room at McNicoll when my team went in to talk to them about volunteer opportunities, I saw a photo of him working with the security team. I also heard he took the job quite seriously.
Noa Hanson, who was also a Young Ambassador with Jenny, was not shy in his task on our team of taking photos of volunteers. He couldn’t even put into words his favourite part of the Games, instead he bounded off with an energy that was palpable.
We have heard from parents who said when their kids returned home from competing they were gushing about the good time they had.
Volunteers who were touched by thank you cards from the kids, officials who decided not to get paid for their hard work because the payment is on the athletes faces or the messages left by athletes for the students whose classrooms they took over as dormitories for the four days. For me, it is all these things, but one in particular got me a little blurry eyed.
Standing on the ice at Memorial Arena I slipped medals over the heads of the bronze medal winning team in ringette. I shook their hands, congratulated them as their parents and fans proudly cheered each kid.
I then interviewed a few of the players. The first told me their medal winning game went into overtime and as she began explaining how they scored the goal and how they lost it after screaming and dog-piling on one another. Her eyes welled up — mine too, even now writing about it.
Oh wait, my phone just buzzed – three emails about the Games.
Kristi Patton is the editor of the Penticton Western News and the Director of Promotions for the Penticton 2016 BC Winter Games.