They are our coaches, referees, event coordinators and maintenance people. They are the folks who dedicate their own personal time to making sure there are recreation opportunities available in the community. They are recreation volunteers, and each year we take an opportunity to recognize them and say an extra “thank you”.
Volunteerism is huge in Alberta. In fact, 84 percent of adult Albertans did some sort of volunteer work in 2013-2014. Of those, almost half of those volunteers (49 per cent) volunteered in the sports and recreation areas, as coaches, organizers, board members and so on. It doesn’t take much to imagine what would happen to the hundreds of sport and recreation programs taking place across Alberta every year if those volunteers weren’t there.
An example: In almost every town in Alberta you’ll find an outdoor rink. It’s the place where kids learn to skate, play shinny, or even soccer in the summer. It’s a community centrepiece. But these rinks don’t appear by themselves, and they certainly don’t stay the way they are without help from Albertans who spend their personal time, usually unpaid, to make sure facilities like the outdoor rink are there for Alberta’s kids to enjoy.
So how do we say “thank you”?
Launched in 1977, the Recreation Volunteer Recognition Awards are handed out annually to four Albertans who have “gone above and beyond to advance the development of recreation in Alberta.” The awards are sponsored by Alberta Culture and Tourism, and the Alberta Sport Connection, and winners are selected by the volunteer Energize Advisory Committee from nominations received from the public, community organizations and other stakeholders. To date, 209 Albertans have received this award.
Many of the winners come from small towns where often the resources aren’t available to employ full-time coaches, referees or staff to put on provincial-level sporting events. These are the people whose passion for helping connect members of their community to sports and recreation is more than just one or two hours a week. For example, this year’s winners have well over 10 years of volunteer service each, have built playgrounds and rinks, have organized outdoor field trips and tournaments, and have worked to break down the barriers to recreation faced by many aboriginal youth.
These four volunteers, along with the thousands of others across Alberta, have helped millions of children discover a passion for sports and recreation. They work tirelessly behind the scenes, giving back to their community so that it can be a better place. They are the true hometown heroes, and we are proud to recognize them..
So take a moment to thank the volunteers in your community, and maybe consider sharing your talents in support of programs and projects that matter to you. Volunteering is a great way to connect with people who share your interests, learn new skills and gain valuable experience. And there’s no better way to say thank you than to lend a hand to a volunteer who has made a difference in your life.
2014 Recreation Volunteer Recognition Awards Winners
Allan Adams (Mayerthorpe)
- Allan has been involved in a number of recreation projects over his 15 years of volunteer service to the community of Mayerthorpe. He’s served on the boards of Mayerthorpe’s Sports Grounds Clup, the Golf and Country Club and Mayerthorpe’s Minor Hockey League, and has helped build outdoor rinks, and put on golf and hockey tournaments throughout the years.
Wendy Goulet (Peace River)
- Wendy is known for her work in making programs and services in Cadotte Lake and Peace River more inclusive for Aboriginal and Metis children. She has helped more Aboriginal and Metis youth participate in Dance, Native hockey, Jigging and ball hockey and is known as a great listener who strives for positive community engagement so that the recreation needs of everyone are met, regardless of culture, age or ability.
Dean Viste (Hanna)
- With more than 25 years of volunteer service, Dean has been a key volunteer in a number of community projects, including the ball diamond and soccer field construction, landscaping projects and playground development. He is a leader, fundraiser and pillar of the Hanna community.
Hal Ziprick (Smokey Lake)
- An avid outdoorsman and archery expert, Hal has spent the last 12 years promoting archery across the Smoky Lake region, including organizing a two-day archery shoot, and helping co-ordinate provincial, national and world tournaments.He is also involved in volleyball and basketball clubs in the community. In fact, his leadership has attracted other volunteers to those programs, especially ones focusing on youth.