Tag Archives: volunteer

My PanAmazing Volunteer Experience

It’s been over a month since my volunteer experience at the 2015 Pan Am and Para PanAm games in Toronto finished. I signed up to volunteer to be a part of something bigger in my community that would likely be one in a lifetime. And yes, while there were definitely many moments of tedium, uncertainty, and inconvenience to my family and work, it was an experience that I value wholeheartedly—my PanAmazing volunteer experience.

When I put in my application in the summer of 2014 to volunteer at the 2015 Pan Am Games, I didn’t really know what was in store for me. When the organizing committee sent me my assignment in February 2015, I must admit that my first reaction to joining the Fleet Transportation team as a driver was one of disappointment. Knowing up front that I would not be driving athletes, it didn’t seem like a particularly fulfilling experience. Thanks to some insightful comments from other volunteers made on our FaceBook volunteer group, I realized that if I wasn’t volunteering with the spirit of
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I bet the haters of the Pan Am Games don’t throw good parties themselves

The 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto are now over, and for all intents and purposes, it’s been a success. The completion events and venues ran smoothly. The Canadian athletes performed tremendously. My fellow volunteers (for the most part) have been enthusiastic and cheerful, regardless of their tasks. In all my interactions with our visitors I’ve driven, they have been effusive with praise about their entire experience in the city.

And yet there are those who still continue to moan and complain about the Pan Am Games.

Yes, it costs money to organize, build and run a world class event. Yes, we do have many issues in our city and region that are lacking funds to address, including social programs, affordable housing, and infrastructure. Yes, improvements and infrastructure (e.g. wireless class pool, train link from the airport to Union) would have ideally been done as part of regular responsible governance and administration without the will of the Pan Am Games to force it. But it’s often hard to get the political will behind stuff like that without the external attention.

I liken it to throwing a party at your house. A house that you still owe a significant mortgage on, where the roof is aging, the backyard deck needs replacing, the bathroom is outdated but serviceable, and maybe the landscaping is overgrown. You have three generations of family members in your home, all with different needs and wants, which cost money. You don’t know how much post-secondary education will be for your teenaged kids. You don’t know what medical costs will be to care for your aging mother. You know you need to save for retirement. There are lots and lots of things fighting for your attention and money.

Sometimes when you’re feeling all this stress and drudgery… You just want to throw a party. To bring together some people to have fun, celebrate life, and instill some joy and good memories. Disrupt the tedium that living responsibly often requires, and have some fun.

And so you prepare for the party. You borrow some money to fix up the deck and renovate the bathroom and do the landscaping. You choose to forgo the roof for now, even though that is more prudent in the overall maintenance of the house. You go and buy lots of food and drink to entertain. To even buy some more decorations, and flowers, and music, even if it can’t be all reused afterwards. You inconvenience your family by the renovations and moving furniture around and making your teenager park down the street to free up some parking spots for guests.

All this time, you get to hear from your mother nag at you for spending money when you still have a mortgage and some credit card debt. You hear from your kids complaining that the guest list isn’t cool enough, the work needed to prepare is annoying and inconvenient, and the entertainment chosen is boring. They are just down right sulking at the fact this event is taking place, without offering help to improve the event. They would rather not have this party at all. You acknowledge these statements from the negative Nellies, because they are family and you love them, but proceed on anyway, knowing that this is going to be one kick-a$$ party.

Sure, it doesn’t make financial sense to have a party, as you will not “break even” on your spending for it. But with the right attitude your guests will have a great time and think fondly of you and your event for years to come. Likely your negative Nelly family members will come on board once the event is in full swing and they find themselves having a good time. You will have the satisfaction of a good party, connect with lots of people, and also enjoy yourself immensely since you planned the party so well. You now have a nicely renovated bathroom, fixed deck and lovely landscaping to enjoy for years to come.

You will also feed your soul with the joyful good memories of a great party that will help sustain you in the upcoming days and months where you face the drudgery of being financially responsible.

So thank you Pan Am Games, for throwing a great party and for all the wonderful cohosts (staff and volunteers), guests (athletes, officials, coaches, delegates, media) and entertainment ( the artists performing at Panamania and the opening and closing ceremonies). The sports were thrilling to watch, and no doubt inspiring many of our youth to take up new sports and compete. It was so nice to have the news filled with positive stories about people persevering and achieving their goals, compared to the usual things that get covered in the news.