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Helping Hands

Reprinted from SNS July 2017

From helping record statistics to providing medical care to fetching arrows, without volunteers, the Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals wouldn't happen

Deb Jenks spends her workdays helping athletes with sports-related injuries as a licensed athletic trainer in the Madison, Wis., area. And for years, as her own children played youth sports, she often spent much of her after-work time at fields, rinks and courts, helping out for free. You’ve seen the type, part of the 20% of people who always seem to do 80% of the work. 

“I always volunteered to coach my kids,” Jenks says. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t happen.” 

So you’d think now that her kids are pretty much grown, Jenks would have more time to finally relax at home, right?

But as the Adaptive Sports USA 2017 Junior Nationals in Middleton, Wis., arrive this month, Jenks will be as busy as ever, continuing to give up her time, now making sure other people’s kids have high-quality opportunities for competition. She’ll be one of a corps of volunteers running the whole event.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t happen.

Unpaid Volunteers

The Junior Nationals, which run July 15–21, are being held in Middleton for the second straight year and are open to athletes ages 7–22 with physical disabilities, visual impairments and some intellectual disabilities. 

More than 250 athletes are expected to compete in events at Middleton High School, including archery, powerlifting, swimming, table tennis and track and field. Athletes at the Junior Nationals are classified according to functional ability — something else that requires volunteers. 

Just about everyone who has a role, like Jenks, is doing it for the love of sports and the sole reward of giving athletes a chance to compete.

“It’s pretty much 100 percent volunteer — I’m an unpaid volunteer,” says Gregg Baumgarten, the chairman of the board of Adaptive Sports USA, which puts on the event. “Everybody is basically a volunteer. It’s a huge undertaking, and we need a lot of volunteers both in planning and in implementation.”

Like Jenks, who will help coordinate medical coverage at the Junior Nationals, some of the volunteers have particular experience or skills they bring to the event. 

Marcy Thurwachter, a former college track coach, recently retired from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, where she helped oversee cross-country and track, among other sports, as well as helping with tournament planning. 

Like Jenks, Thurwachter could be doing other things with her time now that she’s retired. And she still works as a track and field official at high school meets. Yet, in her spare time, she chooses to do more track and field organizing, helping recruit and coordinate officials, timers and others who will work the games and doing some officiating herself.

Last year, Thurwachter marked landing spots and recorded results in the long jump and was the wind gauge reader for track events. She does it because she loves the sport and being around athletes, something she’d missed from her coaching days during the time she was cooped up in an office as an administrator.

“A summer day with track and field is a good day,” she says.

Jenks also volunteers because she enjoys the interaction with athletes and their families.

“That’s what this is about, building those relationships,” Jenks says. “It’s a community of people who often don’t get that much support.”


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