July 1st events hinge on volunteers

Duane Hicks

Volunteers are desperately needed if a full slate of July 1 activities are going to go ahead this year.
While Canada Day may seem a long time away, organizers have been meeting since the fall to plan for it—and it’s clear more helping hands are going to be needed, said “Fun in the Sun” committee chair Randy Thoms.
“The biggest push right now is the need for volunteers,” he stressed. “We just don’t have enough volunteers.
“Even if all of the events that we had planned for last year we were going to do this year, we couldn’t do them because we just don’t have the manpower.”
Thoms also noted the “Fun in the Sun” board needs more volunteers, adding “Fun in the Sun” needs a formal board of board of directors in place as part of its efforts to incorporate.
As well, the board hasn’t heard from some of the other groups that worked with it last year whether or not they want to be part of Canada Day again this year.
“We kind of suspect that they are but we need to know now,” he remarked.
Thoms said he’s confident about fundraising for Canada Day activities, and projected a budget of about $26,000 for this year’s celebration. But helping hands are crucial to pulling it off.
“We can do anything but we don’t have the people. And if we don’t have the people, we can’t do anything,” he lamented, adding the event has to be volunteer-driven because organizers can’t afford to hire people.
If they can’t get enough volunteers, festivities this year could be reduced to fireworks, although it’s possible some activities put together by other organizers, like the Mini-King and Queen contest, Energy Fitness Fun Run, and volleyball tournament still would take place.
“The bottom line is: if we don’t have volunteers, we’re going to have to make a real hard decision on whether Canada Day festivities go,” Thoms warned.
In related news, Thoms said the “Fun in the Sun” committee also is considering being part of a Dragon Boat Festival organized by Northern Community Development Services (NCDS).
“The Dragon Boat Festival would be an event upon itself,” he explained. “We wouldn’t need the volunteers, they would need the volunteers.
“But again if it does, and it likely will, become a Canada Day event, we need more volunteers right there to assist,” he stressed.
“We’ve been told as many as 15 people are needed.
“I know [NCDS executive director] Jenny [Greenhalgh] will be beating the bushes for volunteers on that end, but if the ‘Fun in the Sun’ committee can help draw more people in for that, as well, it’s going to be a boost,” Thoms reasoned.
He conceded Canada Day last year was a struggle for volunteers, and there weren’t enough to do things properly, adding a pair of Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce summer students, in particular, came through in a pinch to help out.
An example of where volunteers really would have helped out is the inflatable bouncy castles for kids at Pither’s Point. While the intention had been to charge a minimal fee ($1-$2) to help recover costs, there were no volunteers to collect the fee come July 1.
“We want to bring those castles back, but we need to charge a small fee—a dollar or two,” said Thoms.
“We know they’re popular, so we want to bring back more, but we need the people to help man those things.”
Another example is the Canada Day Bingo at Pither’s Point. Last year, they only had four volunteers to run it for six hours.
Volunteers also are needed to do set-up and take-down on Canada Day.
“We didn’t use the tent last year, but we didn’t use the tent because we didn’t have the people to set it up,” Thoms remarked.
He also acknowledged “Fun in the Sun” is not the only local group hurting for volunteers.
“I don’t what the answer is. People are busy, I understand that, but I don’t know,” Thoms said, adding “Fun in the Sun” even had put out a call for help to Fort Frances High School, thinking they could draw some students who had to earn their volunteer hours in order to graduate.
They got no responses.
And with Canada Day falling on the tail-end of a long weekend this year, Thoms is not sure that’s going to help with getting volunteers, either.
“Hopefully, we can draw more volunteers . . . we will see.”
A perfect time to get involved is at the committee’s next meeting, which is slated for next Wednesday (Feb. 29) at 6:30 p.m. at the ’52 Canadians Arena meeting room.
You also can e-mail Thoms at thoms.randy@radioabl.ca