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Volunteering in the community

Lisa Sygutek

Nov 8, 2023

I learned that volunteering, even in difficult situations, can fill your soul with joy. 

When I was getting my management degree one of the classes I took was organizational behaviour. My favourite professor was teaching the class and part of passing it required that we volunteer at the soup kitchen and jingle the bells for the Salvation Army during Christmas.

When I first heard the requirements, I was a bit disappointed that my time was being taken away from the classroom environment to volunteer. I really could not understand why he was making us do this. I learned more volunteering in those two situations than I learned in five years of university.

I learned what it was like to see kids coming to the soup kitchen during lunch hour at school. I learned how rude people can be to volunteers who are asking for monetary support for a good cause. I learned how fortunate I was to have the means to live a comfortable life. I learned that volunteering, even in difficult situations, can fill your soul with joy. 

Long before I was a Councillor, I was an avid volunteer in the community. I sat on the Recreation Board, I was President of Indoor Playground, I volunteer coached for the Pass Piranhas Swim Club and minor soccer, I was the Registrar for Minor Hockey, and on the executive for the Southwest Rockies. I was on every fundraising committee and did more bingos and casinos than I can count. I have sat on provincial government boards. I was helper mom at all my kids school activities. I’ve never shied away from doing things rather than bitching. 

I have instilled in my kids the notion that volunteerism is important. It teaches life skills, allows you to give back, and just generally makes you feel good. 

When my boys hit Grade 12, I ask them to start volunteering. I believe that’s the age where they get it and are mature enough to appreciate it. 

Keiran volunteered with minor hockey as a coach. He loved hockey, and if anyone had him as a swim instructor when he was a lifeguard, you know how much he loves kids. 

In his grade 12 year, Aiden did the 12 Days of Christmas Campaign, where he fundraised to fill Christmas stockings for some of the less fortunate in his school. We were hoping that the tradition would carry on with subsequent grades, but COVID hit and the program lost traction.

This year Quinn quit hockey because the practises in Pincher Creek were very late and by the time he got off the ice and home it would be close to midnight on school nights. It was a very difficult decision made and one he often laments. 

Quinn is supper academic and puts school as his priority. Keiran’s friend Treyton volunteered last year as a coach in minor hockey and loved it. So Quinn offered his services to volunteer coach, as this allowed him to still be involved in the sport he loves. He felt it would be a wonderful opportunity to mentor kids in his school. 

I had no clue what he would face. When Lyle was in town this past weekend, he was informed that a parent on one of the teams Quinn was coaching was mad that he didn’t have his required courses to be on the ice.

He needed the Respect in Sports as well as a police check. According to Hockey Alberta he has until November 15th to complete them (which, as of this weekend was done). 

This lady was smearing my child in town. It blows my mind the ignorance of people in the hockey stands who don’t have a clue what’s going on. They are the parents that give hockey a bad rep. It felt like there was an implication that my son was some sort of predator.

In response, Lyle and I sent a strongly worded letter to Crowsnest Pass Minor Hockey. We have asked them to address all the parents and talk to the them about bullying of children and coaches and reminding them of the Respect in Sports for Parents requirements. Bullying of any sort is not acceptable, and it’s especially egregious when it happens to a young volunteer coach.

My point with this editorial is that we ask kids to participate in the community. We ask them to be good stewards, and when they do, they are often treated poorly. 

Perhaps it’s hockey mentality. Perhaps it’s the ‘adult’ in question. Those that bully are usually the most insecure and pathetic.

How many times have we heard adults yelling at referees in the stands or berating the executive of an organization? How many times have we watched parents yelling at their kids during games? How many times do we hear a pre-conception that the youth are lazy and bad?

As adults we should be encouraging the youth to volunteer as a way to better their community.

Quinn probably has more integrity in his little finger than that hockey mom. 

While she’s teaching her children the meanness of adults, I’m teaching mine how to persevere, so at the end of the day my son will shine.

I did get a response from Minor Hockey. It was to tell me that the parent in question was upset that Quinn wasn’t put on the roster to coach the day he went out on the ice. 

Again, that is not Quinn’s fault. That’s a Minor Hockey issue. What is unacceptable is that this parent felt it was okay to malign him in town, exaggerate the situation, to the extent that Lyle overheard it. What right does any parent have to devalue a kid who volunteers his time for the right reasons because she has an issue with the organization. It’s obviously a ‘her’ issue.

My hope is that this is a learning experience for all involved. For minor hockey it is to make sure you cross your ‘T’s and dot your ‘I’s. For Quinn, it is that there is always a loud mouthed jerk. For the hockey mother it is that words have consequences. 

I’m looking forward to Quinn learning the art of volunteerism, both good and bad. That he learns that giving is better than receiving, and that when bullied to not back down. 

He handled the situation better than I did because quite honestly, you all know how I feel about my kids and the lengths I will go to protect them! The next time you have something negative to say in town, it usually gets back to the person maligned, remember that!

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