OFSAA Championships: Volunteers win hearts, kudos

Amidst three days of war between Ontario’s 18-best high school basketball teams, it becomes easy to forget what it takes to put on an event of this magnitude.

Convener of the 2010 OFSAA basketball tournament Michael Kennelley, with help from volunteer coordinator Teena McNee, assembled a team of 40 high schools students from the Durham region to assist with the little things that brought the week together.

McNee, a physical education teacher at O’ Neil Collegiate Institute in Oshawa, selected willing bodies she knew she could trust with any task she handed them.

“We picked kids we knew were responsible, love basketball and knew they’d be here the whole time,” she said. “Some are score keepers, some are ambassadors that get runners for the teams and some are working the door taking tickets. It’s been three 15-hour days for them and they’ve been fantastic.”

Kennelley said the efforts of all the staff was astounding and did not go unnoticed. He also added how exciting it was to hear continuous praise for the jobs well done.

“We had a lot of compliments about the kids from referees in terms of their work at the tables, especially in stressful situation when you’ve got two minutes left with thirty seconds remaining and screaming fans and coaches,” he said. “They’ve done really well under pressure.”

From talking to some of the volunteers it was easy to see that the pressure wasn’t on their face or in their attitude. Cassie Ouellet, a grade 11 student at O’ Neil C.I., looked at the positives of working with a big team full of unfamiliar faces.

“We [the volunteers] became like a huge family. I didn’t talk to half these people before I came here,” Ouellet said. “We learned a lot.”

Natasha Falcioni, a grade 12 student at O’ Neil and now good friends with Ouellet, said she’s just happy to have the opportunity to be herself and help out at the same time.

“It’s amazing. We were chosen from our whole school because they saw a spark in us,” Falcioni said. “It’s [volunteer work] all about personality and being friendly.”

Now both Ouellet and Falcioni have to return to school where a pile of missed homework waits for them. McNee stressed that although handling the load will be challenging, it’s the exact reason why these 40 students were selected in the first place.

“They’re troopers,” McNee said. “We chose them because we knew they were responsible and could catch up in school when the time came.”