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Volunteers rally around U21 Pan Am Cup in Fort McMurray


This week, as the top men’s junior volleyball players from seven countries, including Canada, descended upon Fort McMurray, which part of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Alberta, Canada, many local residents were quick to volunteer to help run the international tournament.


Even before a fire devastated the area only one year ago, “Fort Mac” residents were known for their spirit of working together and donating their time.


Fort McMurray is located in northeast Alberta, in the middle of the Athabasca oil sands, surrounded by boreal forest. It has played a significant role in the development of Canada’s petroleum industry. A severe wildfire in May 2016 led to the evacuation of its residents. The fire caused a great amount of damage, and spread across approximately 590,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres) before it was declared to be under control on July 5, 2016.


So there is a history of cooperation, especially in the re-building process. “Volunteering is huge in Fort McMurray,” said the event’s volunteer coordinator, Teryl Parsons.  She had organized a minimum of 30 volunteers a day throughout the tournament. “Some people who came the first day or two had so much fun helping out that they decided to come back again.”


Teryl recruited the volunteers through social media and the local Keyano College athletics department web page.  “We approached to two clubs in town NLVC (Northern Lights Volleyball Club) and Thunder Volleyball – both have contributed volunteers, as well as the nearby high school, including Composite High School that organized the web cast crew.”


The local LINK program, which helps people new to Canada learn English, also brought their students to help out, and the feedback from the students was excellent. 


“They were very enthusiastic,” said Parsons.  “The picture with the Canadian team really made their day on Thursday.” 


Many local businesses also contributed to the event through sponsorship and donations.


And although the finals fall on a holiday weekend in Canada, many people are still eager to help out.

One of the employees at the venue - called the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre - who cleans the facility offered to be one of the court moppers.


“She said to me earlier in the week when the teams started practising, ‘I want to be on that court’ and she volunteered to come back several times after working all day,’” said Teryl Parsons.


Seven teams are in Fort McMurray for the U21 Pan Am Cup, which also serves as an age-class World Championship qualifier, and the medal matches conclude the tournament on May 21.