It took more than skaters to run this show

SUSAN GREER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

Well after the last fan left the John Labatt Centre yesterday afternoon, there was a group of people still working to dismantle the temporary facilities set up for the national figure skating championships.

Without the skaters, of course, this event wouldn't go on. But without the volunteers, it couldn't go on.

Jacquelyn Stevens, a London lawyer, is the volunteer team leader for the nationals. Her job started last fall with the recruitment of other volunteers -- 248 in all, plus 58 medical volunteers and 40 youths aged 10 to 18 to act as "retrievers" (of stuffed toys thrown on the ice) and as medal and flower bearers.

Six other team leaders lead volunteers on technical, transportation, arena hospitality, facilities, event services, promotions and communication teams.

Some volunteers put in their hours in addition to fulltime jobs. Others booked vacations.

They do everything from security and assisting the media to feeding the skaters and patching the ice before it is resurfaced by the Zamboni.

At times, one of the most difficult jobs has been transportation, particularly Monday and yesterday, when the city was hit by blizzards and driving became problematic. But it didn't seem to faze Janice Fountain, 48, a registered practical nurse from Ingersoll, who is on medical leave but has been working a 2 p.m.-to-late evening shift driving skaters, officials and others around.

Her daughters -- Elizabeth, 24, and Stephanie, nine -- have been, or are active, in the Ingersoll Figure Skating Club. Fountain says she thought this could be a "once-in-a-lifetime" chance to participate in this type of event.

Stevens admits bad weather creates a few complications, but mostly it's just a matter of redeploying the volunteers where they're needed most.

Even with yesterday's storm, she wasn't expecting to be short-handed, although she figured a few people might be late, partly because quite a few live out of town.

Many of the volunteers come from the H.O.M.E. Region, 19 affiliated figure skating clubs in Huron, Oxford, Middlesex and Elgin counties. But there are a "substantial number who have no connection to figure skating" and just wanted to get involved, Stevens says.

Sometimes, it's a family effort.

In Stevens' case, both her mother Vermell and father Jim, are volunteers -- as a volunteer co-ordinator and technical team leader respectively. They live at Verschoyle, south of Ingersoll.

"The Moirs (relatives of ice dancer Scott Moir of Ilderton) are here en masse," Stevens says. "Skating really is a family community." And it's a big community. Two of the volunteers came all the way from Calgary.

Volunteers were required to commit 30 hours of time over the course of the week, but for some it's been much more.

Stevens and her mother, for example, usually "open up" between 5 and 6 a.m. and are the last to leave, usually after midnight. Tonight, they'll take a break after the competition to go to a closing banquet at the Hilton Hotel. But then they will be back at the JLC, helping other volunteers, Skate Canada employees and Labatt Centre workers with the "teardown."

A few volunteers won't actually finish until tomorrow, when the last of the skaters and officials are scheduled to fly out.

"Volunteers are the heart of the event in many ways," Stevens says. "They've been great about doing whatever they've been asked."

Some of the skaters may not take home warm memories of the 2005 nationals. But it's a safe bet most of the volunteers will.


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