“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” In my opinion, these words by James Matthew Barrie, a Scottish author best known as the creator of Peter Pan, capture best the rewards of volunteering. Throughout the Cornwall Outdoor Club’s existence there have been many golden opportunities to spread these rays.
One of my favorite places to volunteer is at the Cornwall Triathlon. A morning spent outside in the midst of all the action while doing such things as handing out water bottles to runners or stripping wet suits off swimmers is time well spent. Most years, my husband and I can be found paddling on the St. Lawrence River assisting swimmers to stay on course and searching for athletes in distress. Having swum this course on a few occasions myself, I know only too well the difficulties the swimmers face swimming in the open water. In addition to dealing with current, waves, wind, temperatures, rain or blinding sun, there is the added challenge of attempting to go in a straight line while manoeuvering through a cluster of random legs and elbows. I feel disoriented just watching them. I have so much fun at this event that when an athlete spots me in my flashy volunteer shirt and says “thank you,” I always feel a little taken aback because I feel so grateful myself. After all, I am getting a chance to spend the morning in my canoe working closely with dedicated athletes and as an extra bonus I get to feast on donated pizza and salad.
For the last few seasons club members have also been volunteering at Summerstown Forest for Family Day. As a group we spend a lot of time on the cross-country and snowshoe trails there. The Friends of the Summerstown Forest work so hard at maintaining this beautiful forest for everyone to enjoy. So when we are asked to take a couple of hours out of our weekend to hand out trail maps, direct traffic, pour hot chocolate drinks, build a fire, or gather branches for roasting marshmallows, it is only natural to accept. It feels good to be part of a group working jointly to create an opportunity for families to come together. If we plan our day right, we can even squeeze in some time to enjoy the trails ourselves.
Over the years, many of our members have participated in such fundraising events as The Children’s Treatment Bike-A-Thon Plus or The Coldest Walk of The Year, a five kilometer walk taking place in February which directly benefits the Agape Centre while raising awareness of homelessness and hunger. Since we enjoy the health benefits of fresh air and exercise, why not do it with the goal of helping to improve our community in the process? The energy to be gained in working towards a common goal is uplifting and rewarding.
Most likely our club will always be involved with community organizations in one way or another because it is simply “sun-sational.”