Volunteering is at the very core of being a human. No one has made it through life without someone else’s help.
The ITU World Triathlon series was scheduled to come to Leeds on the weekend of 11-12th June. The first time that a UK city other than London, was hosting a World Triathlon; an event promising excitement and possibility. Our previous volunteering experiences had done so much to boost our happiness that we didn’t hesitate signing up.
In my role as a parent, I continuously seek for ways to help my daughter grow and for her life to closely reflect my values. Volunteering provides opportunities to teach children the value of generously giving our time and being of service to others.
Unfortunately when the confirmation of my volunteering role at the Registration desk came, I was told that because of age restrictions, Athina wouldn’t be able to join me. The news saddened my little lobster and I promised her I’ll speak to the ITU organisers and see if they’d re-consider.
We put our case forward, explaining our good understanding of the health and safety policies and reiterating the importance of exposing children to positive experiences. Allowances had already been made for other children and the ITU organisers kindly agreed for Athina to participate if a few reasonable recommendations were met. We were ecstatic!
Lesson learnt: Don’t ever give up if something really matters to you.
On Saturday 11th June, we woke up with a spring in our step. We were eager to greet the world and to be of service. The ITU World Triathlon represents the pinnacle of triathlon competition in the UK, providing more than 5,000 recreational triathletes with a unique opportunity to compete on the same course as the world’s best. Athina wore her volunteer t-shirt with pride and took her role as a Registration girl very seriously. She greeted people, asked for their race number and located their registration papers. She checked their identity against the details on the envelope and informed them where to collect their swimming caps from. They say: A little bit of good goes a long way and all involved that day were helping me teach Athina the act of great kindness, hard work and how to add to the happiness of the people we encounter. Thank you- After all, children grow a healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that they find worthy of their own respect; such as helping other people.
We also had the chance to meet lovely Vicky Holland in person and she gave Athina a t-shirt (which will possibly melt on her before we opt for a replacement!) She thanked her for volunteering and said that without the help of volunteers this event wouldn't happen and she wouldn't be able to compete. That night Athina slept in Vicky's t-shirt and next morning she announced excitedly that Vicky was going to win. She was right, Vicky made the country proud in 3rd place on the podium! Equally important is the fact that her kind words means Athina will continue to volunteer, knowing her efforts have a positive impact.
In a blink of an eye, that same evening, we randomly found ourselves rehearsing at the award ceremony that was to follow on race day. Athina filled-in as ‘Pretend World Triathlete No1 and No2’ and I took the place of the Flower Award Lady taking the athletes down the aisle. The blue carpet and the finish line looked grand and Athina was allowed to practice her roly-polies and cart wheels on it.
The ITU team had a good understanding of how extraordinary significant it is to motivate children and inspire the next generation. Athina (Aka: World Triathlete No1+No2) was awarded her invisible medal, her hand was shaken firmly and she was congratulated in the most professional and realistic manner. Whatever expectations I might had had for the day, watching Athina on the ITU World Triathlon podium will remain an unshakable moment in time.
On Sunday the atmosphere across Leeds was incredible. Yorkshire was proud to be hosting this event and even more so of ‘it’s boys’ (Jonny and Alistair Brownlee) who were competing in their last event on home soil before the Rio Olympics. Alistair came in first place and Jonny in second. It was the dream result that the huge crowds in their hometown of Leeds had wanted. The boys received a rapturous reception and I felt truly honoured for my Yorkshire heritage (+ Ancient Greek Athenian!) whilst watching history being made.
When I’m asked what I want for my daughter in the future I say: ‘I want her to have many life experiences, causing her to be happy’. Volunteering for the ITU World Triathlon in Leeds, gave us a great sense of achievement and value. We thank all the athletes and the ITU World Triathlon organisers for this and we hope that we too had been a cause of happiness to others.