Volunteers make things happen

There is a sign posted at the Civic Centre that reads, “Volunteerism is the rent we pay for living in a great community.”
I’m regularly reminded of this quiet saying that Mohammad Ali originally spoke as I look throughout the district at all the projects that continue to benefit residents.
It is not just the arenas, the hospitals, and the community centres that contribute to our quality of life; it is the people who volunteer countless hours to making things happen.
One of the great tragedies that had been threatening to unfold this year was going to be the disappearance of high school sports across the district because of the contract negotiation impasse between the local public school board and its high school teachers.
For many students, recreation—whether it is hockey, basketball, volleyball, swimming, or soccer—often is the reason they will attend classes.
The hours that coaches volunteer are impossible to measure. The impact on the lives of youths is equally difficult to measure. But we do know that those volunteers make a difference every day to our communities.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of Terry Fox’s death. His cross-country run that ended in Thunder Bay still is not completed yet every year, volunteers organize the Terry Fox Run to raise funds for cancer research.
The cancer that claimed the life of Terry is very curable today. The fund he set out to create over the past 35 years now has raised more than $700 million, and organizers hope that on the 35th anniversary that $35 million will be raised.
Every year, volunteers step forward to organize and co-ordinate Terry Fox Runs in the district. Every year, residents step forward to donate funds to runners, walkers, and bikers who participate on that date.
And every year, there are new breakthroughs in cancer treatment.
It is but one example of local people helping achieve something major benefiting the lives of many Canadians.
Often times we don’t see the work or recognize the time that volunteers contribute to our lives. Five days a week, volunteers drop off meals to people through the “Meals on Wheels” program.
Other volunteers drop reading books from the library to those with vision disabilities.
Shortly we will be experiencing hockey tournaments almost every weekend, along with skating competitions, swimming meets, and many more competitions of all types of sports.
Those weekend events cannot run without the support of parent volunteers who organize, promote, and staff the programs each weekend. It is a huge undertaking and every age group has a home competition.
Without those parents volunteering, our community would be much quieter through the winter months.
The Fort Frances Lakers’ Junior ‘A’ hockey team runs as a volunteer, not-for-profit organization. The team is dependent on the faithful volunteers who man the doors, sell tickets and merchandise, organize transportation for the squad, and much more.
Similarly, the volunteers who organize “Tour de Fort,” the Border Concert Series, Fort Frances Little Theatre, and other cultural events improve the quality of life for district residents.
Every year requires thousands of volunteer hours. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said, “Let us remember the large number of citizens who, day in and day out, through acts of volunteerism large and small, bring hope to so many.
“Let us ensure that this wonderful resource, available in abundance to every nation, is recognized and supported as it works towards a more prosperous and peaceful world.”

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