I’ve been asked to try and put into words what brought me to volunteer for Invictus and what I felt about the games. I have struggled so hard to put my feelings down onto paper. It is not easy to sum up. This is not my first games. I volunteered for PanAm and my role was getting the flags ready for the medal ceremonies at the Innisfil Shooting venue. I was so overwhelmed with both the scope and the feel good camaraderie of the PanAm games. I felt at the time it was the most life changing thing I had done.
The next year, following on the high of PanAm, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Guelph Special Olympic Spring Games. While only taking place over a 3 day weekend it was again an overwhelming feel good experience. I loved every minute of it. Every hug, every victory by each of the athletes, every medal (as once again I was involved with the medal ceremonies). It too was a life changing experience.
Then in May of 2016 I received a message from a friend I made at PanAm. She mentioned that Invictus was looking for volunteers for a 1 day gig. I thought oh, ok… I don’t know what Invictus is (at that point) but she’s asking so I said yes. I was asked to attend a meeting along with about 15 other people – some of them also from PanAm. What I didn’t expect is that I would be caught up in not just the excitement of the day (and the possibility of seeing Prince Henry even from a block away) but that I would have an opportunity to not only learn what these games were about, but to learn something about myself.
That very first day I met a military member and his wife who I was asked to drive to all the media events of the day. I was told he utilized a wheelchair and that he wore 2 leg prosthetics. However, when he climbed into the Jaguar I was driving (nervously), I noted that he was in fact not wearing his prosthetics. He took a good look around the roomy back area and said to me, completely deadpan – wow look at all the legroom back here. Well I cracked up and came back with oh great – I get a sitdown comedian! He laughed and we made a connection. He then told me about how he used humour to help deal with his PTSI. I was so intrigued by not just him but by the fact that someone who has been through something none of the rest of us ordinary Canadians can possibly imagine could still, make a joke with a total stranger. He touched my heart.
At the end of the Launch day I was asked if I would be interested in volunteering for the games. I said sure – I would go online and make an application. I was then informed that if I wanted they would find me a position as they liked my ability to just jump in and do whatever I was asked to do. I at first felt no – I will do what everyone else does and apply through the normal channels cause that would be fair and also I wanted to once again maybe be involved with the Medals as that is what I knew. However, after thinking about it I thought perhaps I really wanted to do this and maybe I wouldn’t get the chance unless I took up the offer. That perhaps I wanted a more personal connection so I said yes.
The role I was given as a Friends and Family Supervisor was more – much more – than I could possibly have hoped for. Meeting, conversing, listening and becoming friends with not only family and friends of the warriors, but also befriending as many of the warriors as I did was – yes you guessed it – the most life changing thing I have done. The emotions I felt for each and every single person at the Village is not describable. Every one of the 11 days I spent at the Village (including 2 days I was not booked on but showed up regardless) was filled with smiles, hugs, gratitude and love. This was volunteering at its finest. It wasn’t work. I didn’t want to stay away. I didn’t want it to end. In my heart it is still ongoing.
So what has this done to me. How has this changed me. Again, I struggle to explain. I learned to look at these athletes, these family members and see the person. The heart and soul. I realized what I saw on the outside and imagined what was ongoing on the inside, was not what defined them. Their defining moment was out there on the field, in the pool, on the court, on the range, in the gym. The success that they achieved was not in winning – it was in competing. Conquering their demons and fears. And their families and friends were right there along with them. Cheering them on, laughing with them, crying with them, succeeding with them.
Yes this was life changing for me. I want to go to Sydney. I want to remain part of the Invictus family. I feel that this… this Invictus…these warriors… these families and friends are mine and my calling. I have tried so hard with some success to explain to acquaintances and my own family what these games meant to me. My experience. I can’t because I find I cannot incapsulate a feeling as large as this. This movement makes me proud to have been a part of it. My family is proud of me for doing it and that is great to hear but it is more important to me that I may have made some small difference in the experience of each and every one of the 1900 plus participants at these Invictus games and that with luck I will continue to go on and make a difference.
Thank you Invictus 2017 for being the most life changing event in my life.
And this time I mean it.
I AM Invictus.
Friends & Family Supervisor