Celebrating Sporting Volunteers
The event, facilitated by Mark Sidebottom, was an engaging and challenging discussion with contributions from the Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín as well as MLAs Barry McElduff and John McCallister. The world of sport was represented by, among others, former British and Irish Lion Trevor Ringland, Ulster Council GAA’s Head of Community Development Ryan Feeney and Race Director of the North West 200 Mervyn Whyte.
Volunteer Now Chief Executive, Wendy Osborne, discussed the roles volunteers play, how and why we need to sustain and grow volunteering and also how we might maximise the opportunities provided by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and its legacy.
Trevor Ringland and Ryan Feeney provided the audience with presentations on how volunteering and sport can play a vital role in building, maintaining and engaging communities and in helping create a shared future.
Mervyn Whyte, Race Director of the North West 200, showed how important volunteers are in the hosting of Northern Ireland’s most prestigious and world renowned sporting events and that without volunteers, these events simply could not happen.
“This was such a worthwhile and engaging event, it managed to bring together our sporting community from a wide range of sports to showcase and celebrate the contribution sporting volunteers make. I hope that those sporting organisations have left today with renewed passion about what can be achieved through volunteering but also that our politicians have taken with them a renewed sense of the importance of both sport and volunteering in the health, wellbeing and future of our community.” - NICVA Head of Public Affairs Lisa McElherron
Speaking about the event, DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said
“The role of volunteers in sport is an issue l have spoken about publicly on several occasions since taking office. Their role is highly significant. Moreover, the contribution that volunteers make to communities is no better evidenced than in sport. In fact, sports volunteers are the largest single group in the voluntary sector in Ireland, and if they did not give up their time and commitment many sports events would simply not be able to happen.”
The Minister recognised the challenges facing sports volunteers. She reaffirmed that encouraging and supporting them in meeting these challenges remained a key priority of the sports strategy, Sport Matters. She said:
“Ultimately, it is the commitment and dedication of the sports volunteer that ensures many people, young and old and of all backgrounds, enjoy sport, fulfil their ambition and achieve their potential.”