The largest event in Swift Current's history will require a record number of volunteers to ensure its success.
The city is hosting the Western Canada Summer Games from Aug. 9-18 and the local organizing committee has started the 2,000 metre race campaign to recruit 2,000 volunteers for the 10-day event. The official launch of this campaign took place at the Innovation Credit Union iPlex, Jan. 21.
Director of Volunteers Sheena Gatzke said more than 250 volunteers are already working in planning and strategic roles, and the challenge now is to recruit all the volunteers that are needed to carry out a multitude of tasks in the run-up to the event and during the actual games.
The 16 sports will take place at 20 venues involving five communities in southwest Saskatchewan – Swift Current, Hazlet, Wymark, Lac Pelletier and Saskatchewan Landing. Recruitment of volunteers will therefore take place in Swift Current and surrounding communities. She is is confident that enough people will step up to become volunteers at the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games.
“I’m excited about our opportunities,” she said. “I think the nice thing is we can engage our youth and there’s a lot of them that have some time in the summer that can help us out, and I think given the fact that this event has never been before, and maybe will never come again, people will want to get involved with the once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Swift Current MLA Everett Hindley brought greetings on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan at the volunteer recruitment launch. He mentioned the provincial government's investment of $1.5 million in the administration and delivery of the games.
“We see this as an important opportunity to showcase not just Swift Current and surrounding area, but the province of Saskatchewan as well,” he said. “After all, these are the Western Canada Summer Games and we're expecting some fairly significant economic spinoff from the games. It is anticipated to be about $2 million worth of economic spinoff as a result of the 1,700 athletes and coaches who will be here, let alone the fans who will be attending. So this is a huge opportunity for Swift Current and southwest Saskatchewan and we're really excited as the provincial government to be a part of this team.”
He encouraged everyone to get involved with the games and he felt confident the volunteer recruitment efforts will be successful.
This sentiment was shared by Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault, who brought greetings on behalf of the City. He noted that the volunteerism already started two years ago, when the host committee was established to organize this event.
“I would be very surprised if we're not going to be able to hit this goal of 2,000 volunteers,” he said. “Our community enjoys being a part of things. Our community wants big events to come here.”
He is optimistic because the community has responded in the past when significant events were hosted in the city and area.
“It's a test, but I know we're going to step up for it,” he said. “It's going to be a great chance for us to help put Swift on the map yet again.”
The games will leave a legacy in new facilities for the community. A beach volleyball court and a mountain bike track were created, while the tennis courts have been upgraded.
“I'm hopeful that these type of events are going to get kids interested in some different types of sports and help see all of our facilities being used long-term in the future,” he said. “That's the lasting benefit I think we're going to see is we're going to see kids getting into the game and kids getting excited about sport.”
Another benefit of hosting the games will be an even greater awareness of the community's ability to organize major events.
“I believe Swift Current is well known throughout a lot of these big committees and a lot of these sport entities as being a welcoming place for bringing events,” he said. “Our community likes being a part of them, they like attending them, they really enjoy being volunteers and being a part of them. So I believe that's what we're starting to see. That lasting impact is that we're a welcoming community and we want more things here and more things happening. So we're just absolutely thrilled for what 2019 is going to be.”
Gatzke provided some sense of the size of the task ahead to host the largest event in the history of the Swift Current area.
“Southwest Saskatchewan is no stranger to hosting sporting events,” she said. “We've done a heck of a job. We host ball tournaments, golf competitions, swim meets, volleyball tournaments. Now we need to be amazing at all of those at once, plus 12 additional sports.”
The 10 days of competition will bring about 1,800 athletes, coaches and officials to the city, along with spectators. Volunteers have to fulfill tasks that vary from ticket takers to score keepers and stage hands.
“There are jobs for almost anyone and everyone.,” she said.
Schools have to be converted into dormitories, athletes have to be provided with meals, they need transport to and from competition venues and cultural activities, and there are plans for athlete entertainment that will need volunteer assistance.
Volunteers are needed to set up and tear down facilities at venues, to record results, they are needed at medal and award presentations, and to ensure the safety and security of game attendees. There are many behind-the-scenes roles at the games, from media and marketing to sanitation and housekeeping, and warehousing and materials management.
The cultural festival during the games will feature four nights of family-friendly activities and performances, and there will be some unique volunteer roles.
For volunteers it will be an opportunity to be a part of the largest event ever hosted in the southwest, to meet new people and build new friendships, to support youth and sport, and to expand their experiences and networks. There are volunteer opportunities for youth who are at least 13 years old at the time of the games.
“We have received permission from the Chinook School Division for high school students to earn their volunteer hours in the summer time in advance of their wellness classes,” she said. “So that's a big perk.”
There is a community engagement team made up of volunteers from all over the southwest. This group's role is to assist with recruitment.
“So if you know of a business or group that would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities, they are ready and willing to meet with you and answer your questions,” she said.
Volunteers are asked for a minimum commitment of 24 hours during the games time. A lot of preparation work will be done before the actual start of the event, and games time for volunteers will therefore start on July 1. Volunteers can sign up for different tasks and they are encouraged to get involved with activities that they will enjoy.
“We would like people to do what interests them, because we think that will help them be excited about what’s coming,” Gatzke said.
Volunteers can now register through the Western Canada Summer Games website at www.2019wcsg.ca/volunteer. For more information, contact the games office at 306-778-1678 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.