A Salute to Volunteers

The West Michigan Sports Commission has hosted 568 events the over the past 10 years, and there is a special ingredient running through our events that makes them successful. While athletes and coaches are a key part, there is another group of individuals who aren’t in the spotlight, working in the background to ensure all goes well. I’m talking about volunteers.

[Sam Barrington, Points of Light]

During National Volunteer Week (April 23 – 29), I want to give a shout-out to the thousands of volunteers who have assisted us at events over the past decade – too many to name – and to remind you why it’s great to volunteer with the WMSC. In fact, if you want to share your story, download the #ivolunteer signboard from the Points of Light website, write your reason, and share it with us and on Instagram and Twitter using #ivolunteer and #NVW. And you’re in good company, as five NFL players are being recognized this week for their volunteerism. Check out their stories here.

As the person in charge of volunteer recruitment for the West Michigan Sports Commission, I’ve seen interest in volunteerism explode over the past few years. As an example, our volunteer database grew from 500 names a few years ago to 1,400 today (click here to join our database to learn about future opportunities). And we expect it to grow, especially with compelling events this year like the State Games of America, where we will need 1,000-plus volunteers to support everything from athlete check-in and the Opening Ceremony to staffing athletic events.

Here are a few reasons to volunteer with the West Michigan Sports Commission:

1. Help us pull of something we couldn’t do otherwise – Our nonprofit hosts 60 sporting events annually on average, yet we have a team of seven full-time staff. It would be impossible to do what we do without volunteers who fill roles we couldn’t otherwise fill with employees. And each event varies in its needs, from 300 volunteers for a one-day 5K event; to 1,000 volunteers to operate the annual Meijer State Games of Michigan.

2. Be part of something big – We have some really cool events in West Michigan, from ArtPrize to LaughFest. And if you’re a sports fan, you’re in Sports City, where we have hosted everything from the USRowing Masters National Championships and USA Table Tennis-US Open (three times), to the USA Synchro Masters National Championships and USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships – not to mention numerous NCAA events. And this year, it’s as big as it gets with the State Games of America, an Olympic-style event featuring competition between State Games medal winners from across the nation. Make sure to register to volunteer for this exciting event Aug. 3-6.

3. Support your sport up close and personal – Are you a rabid ice hocke fan? A passionate pickleball player? A weekend disc golf player? For every sport, there is almost always a national tournament, and Grand Rapids has played host to many of these events (for example, we just hosted the 2017 USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships in January and will again next year). By volunteering at a sporting event that you’re passionate about, you have an opportunity to watch some of the tournament and meet the athletes and coaches involved.

4. Collect the perks! – We’re all busy and our time is valuable. That’s why we try to make it worth your while, with perks like tee-shirts, meals, free entry to events you might be staffing, recognition events, etc. And this year, we have an especially unique perk with one of our events – the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) Pro Masters World Championships Aug. 12-19. If you volunteer for a certain amount of hours, you get to play at the Black Falcon, a private course in Kent City with 20 holes and 6,998 feet that most people never get to play (in addition to attending a party  at the Black Falcon following the event).  Find information here or email Amy at markel.amy2016@gmail.com

5. Contribute to your community – Let’s face it – volunteering makes you feel good because you’re giving back. And volunteering with the WMSC does that. As a 501 c(3), our mission is to bring youth and amateur sports to the region to improve the economy and quality of life – two important reasons to volunteer with us! The economic impact of sports tourism is significant – over our 10-year history, 568 sporting events have generated $240 million in direct visitor spending that went back to our area businesses in the form of hotel stays, restaurant bookings, store purchases, etc. And improving quality of life is always a priority, as we host events that support healthy lifestyles like the State Games of Michigan (open to all ages and abilities) as well as provide wholesome-family-friendly activities to watch as a spectator.

Join me in celebrating National Volunteer Week and volunteer up for an event with the West Michigan Sports Commission today! You can also sign up here to receive our bi-weekly volunteer newsletter to stay current on our many volunteer activities. And don’t forget to post our #ivolunteer photo!


Katy Tigchelaar Headshot
Katy Tigchelaar
Guest Blogger
Katy is Director of Marketing and Events for the West Michigan Sports Commission.

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