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‘Piece of cake’: Finding 1,200 volunteers for 55+ Games in Salmon Arm not a problem

Organizing team for 2024 Games in September ready to roll
The first three members of the BC 55+ Summer Games in Salmon Arm, Vice President Caitlin Thompson, President Debbie Cannon and Director of Administration Carl Cooper, pause for a photo following the April 24 city council meeting. (Photo contributed)

The fun and games have already begun, as a team of enthusiastic citizens is being assembled to prepare for the 2024 55+ BC Games to be held in Salmon Arm.

“It’s very exciting as everyone knows; it’s something I wanted our community to host,” said Coun. Debbie Cannon, president of the Games’ board of directors.

Mayor Alan Harrison thanked Cannon for taking on the project.

“Debbie is a festival and event expert and she’s very good at managing people,” he remarked at council’s April 24 meeting.

It was there that Darby Boyd, general manager of the Shuswap Recreation Society, provided council with a Games’ overview and update.

He said the Games are expected to bring in up to 4,000 people and will require 1,200 or more volunteers.

“I think for our community to get 1,200 volunteers is a piece of cake,” said an enthusiastic Cannon, who has spearheaded other large events in the community.

Volunteers are needed in a variety of areas, from athlete registration to opening ceremonies to the sports themselves.

The first step in the whole process was putting together a successful bid for the Games, which was done by the trio of the City of Salmon Arm – specifically Cannon and CAO Erin Jackson, Salmon Arm Economic Development – specifically executive director Lana Fitt and projects coordinator Caitlin Thompson, and the Shuswap Recreation Society represented by general manager Darby Boyd and other staff.

The bid included gathering letters of support, which came from a variety of groups such as hockey associations, the Neskonlith band, the Salmon Arm chamber, the school district, Skookum Cycle and others.

Sports anticipated include: archery, badminton, bridge, bowling, cribbage, curling, cycling, darts, dragon boat racing, equestrian, five-pin bowling, golf, hockey, horseshoes, ice curling, lawn bowling, mountain bike racing, pickleball, slo-pitch, soccer, swimming, table tennis, tennis, trapshooting and triathlon.

Darby said Vernon estimated its revenue at $3.3 million when it hosted the Games in 2017.

Read more: VIDEO: Mayor takes to the ice in support of 2024 55+ BC Games in Salmon Arm

Read more: Excitement in the air as Salmon Arm makes plans to host 2024 55+ BC Games

After Salmon Arm successfully won the 2024 bid, it was time to form a nomination committee, which Boyd described as “a very strong group.” The group was made up of Mayor Alan Harrison (chair), Debbie Cannon, Erin Jackson, Darby Boyd, Sapphire Games, Marianne VanBuskirk, Jeff Johnson, Caitlin Thompson (scribe) and Lana Fitt.

The key goal was to compile a list of volunteers in order to recruit them. The decision on positions was made as a team, Boyd said.

“We approached it like a sports draft. We put up a white board…, people who had volunteered and people who members of the committee suggested.”

Her “dream team,” as Cannon dubbed them, includes: Vice-President Caitlin Thompson, Director of Administration Carl Cooper, Director of Culture & Events David Gonella, Friends of the Games (FOG) Ian Gray, Director of Medical Services Marietjie Bonthuys, Director of Promotions Jenna Robins, Directors of Protocol Debbie Harrison and Cathy Bartsch, Directors of Sport Jeff Abbott and Al Mostrovich, Director of Tech Services Murray Sholinder, Directors of Transportation Hetty and Charlie Burt, Director of Volunteer & Participant Services Rob Marshall and Director of Venue Operations, to be determined.

Coun. Kevin Flynn said he’s also excited about the Games.

“What an opportunity. Sports tourism is huge,” he said, pointing to the visibility it brings to a community. He also thanked the people who put together the winning bid.

Mayor Alan Harrison expressed appreciation for the bid, too, and noted it received accolades for its comprehensiveness. He also spoke of how delightful it was for him, as part of the nomination committee – which he estimated met about nine times, to talk about all the great volunteers in the community.

“I really want to thank you for stepping forward. It’s a lot of work, a pretty big commitment… We think you’re the right people. No matter which portfolio you have, it’s an important one.”

Read more: Salmon Arm making a bid to host the 2024 55+BC Games

Read more: Medals from BC and Canada 55+ Games make their way to the Shuswap
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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