Debbie Burton one of many lending a hand at ski nationals

Dave Kearsey
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Volunteer Debbie Burton hands out a race bib to Emma Camicioli of Edmonton before Thursday’s races at the 2014 Haywood Ski Nationals in Corner Brook. — Star photo by Dave Kearsey

 It’s a pretty safe bet a person wants to lend a helping hand in a volunteer role when they show up a day early.

Debbie Burton, a retired Corner Brook native, is one of the 350 volunteers keeping up with the hectic pace that comes with hosting the 2014 Haywood Ski Nationals at Blow Me Down Trails.

Burton said she felt it only made sense to give back to her community with a major sports event being staged in the city, so when she saw it advertised in The Western Star that the host committee was looking for a pool of volunteers she started to enquire about being there to lend a hand.

“So, I thought I got a lot of time on my hands why not?” Burton said earlier this week where she was among a group of 10 women handling bib distribution for all the races.

Initially, Burton was asked to give some hours during the weekdays, but she wanted to be there for the whole thing so that’s what she did. She went up to the Blow Me Down Trails on Monday morning bright and early thinking she was ready to do her duty. But, she was caught off guard when she came upon an empty parking lot and not a soul in sight.

“I got up here around 7 a.m. and there wasn’t a soul around. There was nothing on the go Monday so I was ahead of the game,” she said with a hearty chuckle.

Being host for Canada’s showcase of nordic skiing from coast to coast is a huge undertaking for any not-for-profit group. Six hectic race days highlight the 2014 Haywood Ski Nationals so Chief of Volunteers Sheila Seaward had to recruit around 350 volunteers to ensure a safe, enjoyable and relaxing visit to the local ski park.

She has been overwhelmed with the great response. She said Burton is just one of the hundreds who have gone behind the call of duty and made sure they pitched in whenever something had to be done to make life easier for the athletes. Seaward didn’t even know Burton until she called up and asked if she could be a volunteer.

“People are coming out of the woodwork. People really want to help,” she said, noting volunteers from outside the province has also pitched in as well as a large group of high school students who apparently took a week off school, with the permission of their parents, of course.

Burton isn’t involved with skiing in any capacity, but she has been involved with competitive sports all her life and there was a time when she carted her son Evan off to basketball tournaments so she’s seen what goes on behind the scenes.

“Without the help of volunteers like all these fine looking ladies a lot of things wouldn’t be put in place wouldn’t it,” she said, as she pointed to her fellow volunteers busy getting bibs ready for Thursday’s races.

She believes it’s a great thing for the local cross-country ski community to bring national events to the city for everybody to enjoy. She sees so many benefits in for all participants, and for her it was getting a chance to get out and about and meet other people. Known as a local athlete with a big heart, she was having fun helping out and getting to know people she seen around the city before but never took the opportunity to speak with for one reason or another. She’s still a social butterfly who will always give back as long as she has the strength to do so.

“Now we sit down and we have a talk and here we are,” she said of the close-knit group she has been working with in bib distribution.

Burton and her team hand out bibs to the racers before each race and after the race the bibs are collected and washed for the next day.

On Wednesday, it appears things got too hectic at the ski lodge, so Burton decided to go the extra mile, something that many of the volunteers have done since the first race, according to Seaward.

“They had to be washed so I took a lot of them home to wash and dry for the next day,” she said.

Burton isn’t one to look for praise or recognition. She’s just happy she had the time to lend a helping hand.

“You just want to give back and enjoy it all too,” she said.

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Western Star, Canada

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