During the second half of April, North America celebrates the Volunteer. This is the time of year where we collectively appreciate the contributions of volunteers and the health and wellbeing benefits of being one. This week it is National Volunteer Week in the USA, and it’s Canada’s turn to celebrate next week.
At parkrun volunteers are at the heart of what we do. As we highlighted in our 17th anniversary blog in September, we always have had a really good understanding of the function of volunteering and how it can effectively add operational capacity at scale. It’s only in the past few years that we have really begun to understand how beneficial it is to the volunteer in terms of their own health and wellbeing, with clear improvements in sense of purpose through community engagement, belonging and self worth.
An ever growing volume of evidence was emerging for us, that supported the opinion that:
We don’t want to you to take our word for it however, so we wanted to highlight a selection of our volunteers from across both Canada and the USA about why they started volunteering with parkrun, and why they enjoy it so much!
At Shawnigan Hills parkrun on Vancouver Island, BC, Anita Gillmore has been a regular attendee.
“I do it because I enjoy supporting the community. This is a really special place where the people from different parts of the area can come together and interact. It’s a lot of work for the Event Director so I like to help where I can”
Anita regularly walks and participates at the event and really enjoys the mix. For other volunteers, they are able to mix the two by tail walking. Here is Jeanne from Third Creek Greenway parkrun
After asking her why she comes to volunteer, Jeanne said “Volunteering makes my heart happy! It inspires gratitude and provides a sense of community and social connections. I am passionate about encouraging others to stay active and healthy. Volunteering has given me opportunities to meet some new friends who share my interests and passion.”
An uplifting mood and a cheery spirit seems common, as we hear from Kim at Sippo Lake parkrun:
” I enjoy volunteering so much because it gives me an opportunity to be the cheerleader and encourage the participants. I know exactly how uplifting that can be from my own experience. I can’t adequately put into words how much running has meant to me since I’ve started. But even more special is the people that it has brought into my life.”
Similarly Linda, also at Sippo Lake, outlines the changes to her lifestyle and her community, “I like volunteering at parkrun not only because I love the outdoors and running, but because the program is such a wonderful event bringing the community together in a beautiful park setting and encouraging people of all fitness levels to get out and run/walk. Everyone is so supportive and friendly and there is such positive vibe!”
At Eramosa River Trail parkrun, in Guelph Ontario, Brad explains how he learned early on that volunteering is essential to allowing great things to happen:
“In the small Ontario town I grew up in, so many things happened because people volunteered to make sure they did. In my own family, my parents were involved in a variety of volunteer causes. As I developed as an athlete, I quickly realized that the teams and clubs and track meets that I was a part of were because volunteers allowed for these things to happen. The lessons these volunteers taught me made it clear how important volunteering is to the growth and development of a warm and welcoming community, and to the growth and development of the individuals who make up that community. Our local parkrun is just such a community and it happens locally, nationally, and across the world. And it happens because of volunteers who understand that things happen because people work together to make so many good things happen. And there is no doubt that parkrun is not just a good thing, it is a wonderful thing.”
At Perrigo parkrun, Melanie McGrath (pictured giving out tokens), outlines how running isn’t the only way to take part in parkrun “Volunteering has been a way of being involved in parkrun as I am not a runner but a walker. Cheering the folks crossing the finish line is such a positive start to a Saturday.”
“Lillian Bowler, also at Perrigo parkrun here explains why she has been involved with Perrigo parkrun since the beginning:
“I have been running Saturday mornings parkruns regularly since they started at Perrigo Park. I love to volunteer as this is an amazing community to be part off, the running is so much fun, but I want to support this community. I recognize that there are a few people that keep this event going and it is my way to say “Thank you”. It’s always fun to see people run together.”
At Rock Creek Trail parkrun, Chip and Chandra touch on the happiness that is abundant at each parkrun:
Chip – “Volunteering at parkrun is a highlight of my week. Seeing the finish line smiles is great. I love trying to capture that happiness as photographer. I encourage everyone to give volunteering a try, you’ll like it.”
Chandra – “I love starting my weekends with parkrun. You get to meet so many interesting people and everyone is happy to be there. There is always something to celebrate.”
And finally, Julie at Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation parkrun tells us about the joy she feels when helping out:
“I’ve heard it called the ‘Volunteering High,” once you’ve experienced it – you’ll know exactly what it is! It doesn’t come with a monetary paycheck – but the payment comes in many forms – a smile, a thumbs up, a genuine Thank You, and sometimes just knowing you’ve helped. Even seeing someone else succeed – being in that moment with them is all you need to make volunteering a pleasurable experience.”
We hope that this has given you a taste of the great feeling and wellbeing you can get from volunteering. We really recommend you reach out to your local team and ask what volunteer spaces they have coming up. You won’t regret it!
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