Times Associate Editor
After two-and-a-half years of persistent fundraising and meticulous planning, the Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games took Strathmore by storm last weekend as a result of much support, dedication, and the efforts of roughly 850 volunteers.
Over the past several months, nearly 1,300 seniors from across the province excelled in their zone qualifiers for a chance to compete for a medal in Strathmore.
And while the success of the athletes – and numerous new records – proved to be highlights of the games, tremendous hard work behind the scenes allowed for the competition to run smoothly – even with heavy rain showers on Friday postponing outdoor events to the next day.
"It's been a long process but very gratifying and rewarding to see it all come to a successful head," said Joss Binns, activities director for the Strathmore 2015 Alberta55 Plus Summer Games.
"The amount of volunteers was just amazing, because they did everything you asked them to do with a smile. I think from what we've heard ... it was a huge success. In just talking to people who've been to several of these games, they went through the food and through the competitions, and they said this is the best they've ever been to. So that's always nice to hear."
The organization approached the Town of Strathmore for financial support last year, and with the help of local support and several large fundraisers – Beatlemania concert, Flames Alumni hockey game, and 2015 Dream Vacation Raffle – was able to reach their estimated $1.2 million budget.
The organizers also struggled with a lack of volunteers early on, but as the games edged closer, that number skyrocketed to over their projected 800 people. Volunteers flocked to Strathmore from areas such as Calgary, Carseland, and Airdrie, eager to help out.
Without any major hiccups and more participants from Strathmore than ever before, the town cclassified the event a success.
"I think the town benefited in lots of ways, and we also got some awareness," said Tracy Simpson, community services coordinator for the Town of Strathmore.
"I think it's important for our senior population to stay active and to find different ways to engage in the community. I also think it's going to be a great legacy in how people perceive our community. We successfully hosted an event and the people who came are going to have positive thoughts of Strathmore and they're going to share that with people. It's important to have that positive image out there in the province."
In preparation for the summer games, some of Strathmore's facilities received some much-needed upgrades, including the tennis courts, bocce courts, and other facilities.
Board chair Donalda Ladene remains optimistic that the games not only inspired participants and seniors to continue to stay active, but that Strathmore proved it can handle larger crowds to accommodate other events.
"The best way I can describe it, is like a pebble going into the water and the ripple effect," said Ladene. "The pebble was the idea of bringing the summer games to Strathmore and ever since then it's been an ongoing ripple effect, and I don't think we will see the end of that ripple effect for a while."