Volunteers bring sports opportunities to kids, and solidity to communities
Next time you’re at an American Legion or West Plains Little League baseball game, a Pop Warner football contest, or some other sporting event outside of school please take a moment and look around. Find somebody who is coaching, doing concessions, officiating, or anyone you know who volunteers for the organization responsible for putting on the activity and thank them.
Volunteerism is what makes our society work, and sadly there’s probably not enough of it. Volunteers are important not only in non-profit charitable work, but also in organizations geared to bettering the lives of others through offering physical activity and competition.
It takes a lot of energy and time; believe me. I was thinking of this Saturday while sitting at the memorial service for a friend who I might not have known as well as I did if it hadn’t been for volunteering: Mike Paulson.
On a cold December night in 2003 I made my way to Medical Lake to cover a meeting in the City Hall council chambers of two different groups of people who had different ideas of how to achieve one common goal, and that was bring baseball to West Plains youths. Through a lot of discussion they eventually decided to join forces and create West Plains Little League.
One of the mantras of journalism is to not get involved in the stories you’re covering, but somehow that night I found myself raising my hand when the call went out for volunteers for the newly formed WPLL board of directors. It was a good move on my part, one I have never regretted despite all the evening and late-night hours spent trying to organize the league and get it running.
I did this with a group of highly motivated, community minded individuals who thought only, and still do think, of the kids they were working for and the families. Mike was definitely one of those guys, and his recent passing was way too early and a loss that has no measure.
But working alongside Mike and others such as Adam Smith, Ed Franklin, Jeff King, Dan Wagner and company (if I left you out it just means I don’t have room) gave me a new insight into what it meant to be a community member. It takes a lot of work, mental as well as physical sweat. It’s work that’s often taken for granted by those who it is meant to benefit.
There are also times when that work is forgotten when things don’t go as planned, or as wanted. Sometimes volunteer efforts are overlooked by parents who focus too much on their kids and forget that sports at this age should be for the benefit of all who participate – not just those who might be more gifted.
People who volunteer do it for reasons other than self. In some cases sure, they may have kids and want to have something for them to do, but in many instances, those people often continue on with the organization after their kids have left.
It’s these people, these organizations that make our communities what they are: strong, united places to live. So next time your read or hear about a fundraiser for the Cheney baseball, football or wrestling associations, Medical Lake Booster club, Special Olympics or are at a game or competition, take a moment and search out a volunteer and say thank you.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.