Volunteers are a vital part of every community and event. For large events, like the 2019 Canada Winter Games, it takes thousands of volunteers to make it run smoothly.
Sylvan Lake locals, and long-time volunteers, Dave Dale and Dick Swarbrick were just two of the nearly 5,500 volunteers who helped the national games running like a well oiled machine.
For Swarbrick and Dale the experience wasn’t much different from their usual volunteering, driving for the Sylvan Lake Senior’s Bus Association.
“It was a good fit,” said Swarbrick, “it’s just driving a bus around, it was an easy transition to do.”
The two Lakers volunteered their time as drivers during the first week of the Canada Winter Games.
They drove judges, referees, media and what they called VIPs to various venues across Red Deer.
In some instances they were required to drive to Calgary to pick up or drop off one of their VIPs.
“We were supposed to work eight hour days, but if you worked from noon to 8 p.m., you often pulled a couple more hours in,” explained Dale, adding one night just before his sift was finished for the evening ended up driving to Calgary and back and didn’t finish his day until after midnight.
The two drivers said they loved getting to meet people from all across the country. When meeting others from the different provinces, Dale said he was able to learn a lot.
In particular, he says he will never pronounce Nunavut the same way ever again.
“I was driving around a few people from Nunavut and learned I have been mispronouncing it the entire time. It’s Noon-na-voot,” said Dale.
Swarbrick said he was able to teach some of his VIPs about the prairies. In particular he remembers driving around a young man from Halifax who had never experienced a chinook before.
“It was really cold in the morning… and it warmed up in the afternoon and I told him it was similar to a chinook. He had never heard the word chinook before,” Swarbrick said.
Both Dale and Swarbrick said they had a great time lending a hand to such a major event. They loved speaking to people, and said every one was very appreciative of the work volunteers put into the Games.
“Every person I picked up was always smiling, never had a grumpy person come into the vehicle,” said Dale.
“Even if they were tired from travelling all day and just wanted to go to their hotel, they were still very nice and appreciative.”
The two said they felt a swell of national pride, volunteering their time for the Games. Both were able to see many athletes land in Calgary and experienced the cheering and said it was just amazing.
“I’d like to see every province and territory walk away with at least one medal, I think that would be great,” said Swarbrick.
He added he is excited to wait and see which athletes will make it onto the world stage and play for Canada at the Olympics or in the NHL.
“I’ll know them when I see them and I’ll say, ‘I remember them from when they were in Red Deer.’” Swarbrick said.
Both avid volunteers, they believe events such as the Canada Winter Games, or groups like the Senior’s Bus, would not be able to run without volunteers.
A large percentage of volunteers at the Games were seniors, and Swarbrick said that is normal.
“For many, like myself, volunteering is a way to just get out of the house,” he said, with Dale adding he volunteers for the interactions.
There are more than 5,000 people who are working as volunteers for the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer. They around people directly involved in the running of the Games, watch over the health and safety of the guest and athletes, and make sure the national event runs smoothly.
“This is probably the biggest event that has ever come to the area, and I’m just happy to have been a part of it,” said Dale.
Dale and Swarbrick said they would volunteer at a similar event again in a heartbeat, and plan to keep their ears open for new opportunities as they arise.
Follow Megan Roth on Twitter