We wanted to expand on our posts from last month that singled out our area award winners and eventual statewide winners in all of the categories (athlete, family, volunteer and coach). This week we catch up with Paula and Greg Burns from the North Area. Here’s an excerpt from their nomination form with their Question and Answer segment below.
They started out as day-of volunteers at local events. Staff noticed a great potential with both of them, so they were asked to be on the Polar Plunge committee, then venue coordinators, and the relationship has grown from there. Paula and Greg are key members on the Polar Plunge committee, being there from the first committee meeting to the day of the event to set-up, tear down and wrap-up meeting. Paula is the head volunteer at the Plunge in the registration tent. Paula and Greg also travel around the state attending state games as venue coordinators for track & field, softball, basketball and bowling. They help staff all think outside the box and make the program grow each time they are involved. They volunteer for whatever is needed; whether it is loading the truck, selling souvenirs, raking the long jump pits, serving lunch or handing out medals, they have done it all.
Q: How long have you been a SOMO volunteer?
A: 15-plus years
Q: What are some of the things you volunteer at?
A (Paula): I’ve volunteered at area, regional and state events across the state working in basketball, bowling, track and field. Plus, I help with fundraising in the North Area. I’ve helped with the Duck Race, Polar Plunge and now our new event called Ladies Night Out.
A (Greg): Track, softball, bowling and Polar Plunge
Q: What made you first get involved?
A (Paula): My sister, Susan Shaffer who works for SOMO as the competition director.
A (Greg): My wife started helping and I went along to help her. I think she was talked into helping because her sister Susan Shaffer worked for the organization.
Q: Why have you stayed involved all these years?
A (Paula): Because of the friends I’ve made with the athletes. I want the athletes to be able to participate in sports for health and social skills.
A (Greg): Mainly because I have a good time helping out and meeting all kinds of people which makes lasting friendships
Q: What’s your favorite SOMO memory as a volunteer?
A (Paula): We were volunteering in Jeff City at the state softball tournament several years back. Before the game started the coaches were talking on the softball mound. One of the coaches had mentioned that one of his little players (his name was Jon) had not gotten a hit all year and was feeling down. When it was Jon’s turn to bat, the other team called time out. The coach called his players to mound to have a conversation. After he was done talking with players, he went over to Jon at the plate. In the coach’s hand was a bat. He told Jon that this was a special bat, once used by Superman. And that it had special powers. Jon’s eyes lit up. He decide to use the bat. The first pitch came down the middle of the plate and, swing and miss. The next pitch was a line drive up the middle thru the pitcher’s legs. Jon ran to first, someone had thrown the ball over the 1st baseman head. The coach told Jon to run to second base. Then Jon ran from 2nd to 3rd and finally on home. He had gotten a homerun with Superman’s bat. We was so excited. The crowd was cheering very loudly. Superman had saved the day. As you can imagine, there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere. There are a lot more memories but this one stands out as the best.
A (Greg): Watching my daughter who was a Unified Partner and the athlete she was paired up with win a gold medal at the 2010 National Games in Lincoln, Neb.
Q: What piece of advice would you give someone interested in volunteering with SOMO for the first time?
A (Paula): Just try it once, the athletes will win you over. If you like to give hugs you’re in the right place.
A (Greg): Go in with an open mind and just have fun. The smiles on everyone’s face will brighten your day.
Q: What was going through your mind when you found out the two of you were named SOMO’s 2015 Outstanding Volunteers?
A (Paula): It’s not about me. I’m just doing what I love to do. I do it for the athletes.
A (Greg): I was taken aback as I never figured to even be considered as I do this just to help give back and have fun along the way.