Volunteers at the epicentre of Canada Winter Games

The sheer numbers are striking.

Nearly 4,600 Games-time volunteers, with hundreds more pre-Games volunteers – 171,000 volunteer hours and over 28,000 shifts.

It is perhaps even more illuminating to discover how they arrived here, to Red Deer and spent that time, those hours and effort to be part of the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

Their sheer mass only moderately measures up to their heart and dedication at the event this year.

To make the games go, volunteers are essential lifeblood that flows through the veins of such an event.

Like Darcy Lovell, 37, who lives 785 kilometres away in Prince George.

He took a month off work to be here. It was a no brainer after he volunteered at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

“I like the Games movement. It’s a good way for us to develop our Canadian athletes to get them ready for the Olympics,” he said.

“We’re one of the only places in the world that has a multi-sport event like this. Just being there for the kids is great.”

Lovell said what stands out to him about the experience was both the athletes’ dedication to sport and the camaraderie outside the lines.

“They help each other out whenever they need to. Someone falls, they’ll help pick them up. It’s just a good team atmosphere. We’re all Canadian so it’s great to bring us together as a country,” he added.

In their red and gold coats, volunteers were visible at every venue across the Games and in much of the city.

Being seen was a big part of the job, but the other part of the experience was all about the people according to Cheryl Stroh, who was at the volunteer centre for much of the Games.

“It’s heartwarming to be in a community that provides the opportunities to make this happen. Personally, I’m so grateful to the organizers of the Games,” she said.

“I just wanted to give back and get more people involved.”

She moved to Red Deer with her husband from Lethbridge three years ago and jumped right on board, some even say she was the original volunteer.

Stroh disputes that, only to say she’s been working with the games since Oct. 10, 2017. It’s been exactly what she’d hope for and more.

“I have seen and I have heard so many amazing comments about how people just rallied together to make stuff happen,” she added.

“I have personally made some phenomenal friends over the past two years. Just because of getting involved and being a part of it. There’s so many amazing people in this community that give back. It’s a cool thing to see.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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