Hmmm...what is this volunteering stuff all about? I recently had the opportunity to chat with Dave, who is one of our most active volunteers. We've put in 'a bunch' of hours together working on various volunteer tasks (and he still talks to me!) and I wanted to learn more about his motivation. Dave described his volunteer history and how he came to be so active.
It all started when he was quite young; his mother set a great example for him as she was an active volunteer in their community. He doesn't remember the details, but what stuck was the fact she was out helping others. Dave also recalls around that time seeing a TV commercial involving a high-profile athlete promoting social service and helping those in need. The details are scant, but what's key is his mother and that athlete's message left quite an impression as Dave has been volunteering regularly most of his adult life.
As a former runner, now biker, Dave, shortly after graduating college, worked a water station at a marathon in West Virginia, got involved in cheering for runners during the Boston Marathon and, eventually, after moving to Vermont, cheered for friends at the Vermont City Marathon. Once he 'found his footing' here in VT and made a few personal connections, Dave was soon diving in to help out as a volunteer. Enjoying 'being in the weeds,' Dave tends to gravitate to tasks that involve organization and attention to detail. No surprise from someone who has an ME in Chemical Engineering from RPI.
Rolling t-shirts, stuffing race packets, and collating bibs suit him just fine; he knows that providing the correct race information and bib numbers to runners are extremely important. For some, these tasks don't have the 'glamour' of those on race day, but each volunteer -- no matter their task -- has a positive impact on a runner's successful journey from start to finish. Without the organization, on-course support, and encouragement from volunteers, many marathoners would have a much tougher time reaching the finish line.
For many runners, the Vermont City Marathon is their first marathon. And without volunteers these folks would not complete the 26.2 miles, which is often a very personal, life-long dream. And for them to finish and walk away with a great experience brings them back to VCM, or to other races -- not only adding an important component to a healthy lifestyle, but also giving the runner confidence to take on other, previously-thought-unattainable challenges.
So why volunteer? Dave puts it simply, 'the satisfaction of knowing -- in some way -- I contributed to a runner's success and made a difference in someone's life. One can't help walking away feeling good.' Runners have told him that just being there, providing support and cheering their name (by the way, runners can have their names printed on their race bibs just for that reason) inspires runners to keep going. And that's the best feeling. When we look back, those are the moments that really count.