Young Games volunteers get short shrift

Not all Canada Winter Games volunteers got flashy orange jackets. Or tickets to Great Big Sea. In fact, 13 of them weren’t even allowed to…

Not all Canada Winter Games volunteers got flashy orange jackets.

Or tickets to Great Big Sea.

In fact, 13 of them weren’t even allowed to eat their lunch in the volunteer lounge at the Canada Games Centre.

This was because of their age.

The volunteers in question are all under 13, the Games committee’s cut-off age.

The committee didn’t want to become a babysitter, said gymnastics officials co-ordinator Bonita Rogers.

“And I can agree with that,” she said.

“But if you’re recruiting through sport and have all these younger individuals who are willing to sit there all day to watch and help, it’s a great experience for them.”

Gymnastics and figure skating both have jobs specific to “little ones,” she said.

And the Games committee gave Rogers permission to recruit young volunteers, many of who were involved in the sport or had siblings competing.

Ranging from eight to 12 years of age, Roger’s volunteers ran scores from judges to officials, flipped score cards to keep the audience up to date and, in figure skating, glided out on the ice to pick up the flowers and stuffed animals.

“It would have been a stupid job for adults because you’re just sitting there for hours and hours on end flipping numbers,” said Rogers.

“That’s why it’s great for younger individuals, because they enjoy the sport and they want to watch.”

Rogers’ volunteers put in more hours than many of their older counterparts.

“And they got nothing,” she said.

After eating lunch together in the volunteer lounge the first day, Rogers was told her young helpers weren’t welcome.

When Rogers pointed out the kids were just coming off a five-hour shift and needed a place to eat, she was told, “That’s not our problem.”

So, the next morning she held her volunteer meeting in the Games Centre hallway.

Her crew was also planning to eat lunch in the hall, but one of the centre workers offered Rogers the pool-party room.

But this didn’t solve all her problems.

Without proper accreditation, the young volunteers were also paying for their own transportation. Rogers called up the busing committee.

“I made up little badges or passes for them,” she said.

“And made arrangements so they could use the bus with these specific passes.”

Rogers didn’t want to make a stink.

The youngsters were happy to volunteer and just be there, she said.

“So I didn’t want them to go away with a bad taste in their mouth.

“They were awesome, and I wanted to leave them feeling they were major contributors.”

But when Rogers found out her young volunteers didn’t even get tickets to the Great Big Sea concert, she’d had enough.

“That was the last straw for me,” she said.

“And I want other people to know that in the future this should never happen, because these guys put in, in some cases, more hours than the adults.”

Roger had one eight-year-old volunteer who sat quietly day after day dutifully doing his job.

“He was awesome,” said Rogers.

“I’d ask him how he was doing, and he’d always say, ‘Good.’

“I’d take these kids to any restaurant in town, and they’d do fine.”

Rogers’ young volunteers put in 12 hours the first day and 40 more over the next four days.

The volunteers were Corey Baxter, Drew Wagner, Andrew Crist, Kiana Palamar, Daniel Latour, Grayson Vanderbyl, Teaghan Wilson, Amaya Cherian-Hall, Foreste Martin, Benoit Latour, Greer Vanderbyl and Kelcie Henney.

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