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‘I love it’: Victoria referee has volunteered for accessible summer camp for five years

As Easter Seals celebrates 75th anniversary, Shawnigan construction shuffles camp plans
Easter Seals volunteer, Jimmy Hansen, pictured at Camp Shawnigan in 2017. He has volunteered there for the past five years. (Jimmy Hansen/Easter Seals)

Jimmy Hansen has been volunteering with Easter Seals for the past five years. He does it because he says he likes seeing how the organization’s overnight camp for people with disabilities brings people together to have fun.

The 48-year-old Victoria man was an overnight camper himself from the ages of eight to 18, and loved it. He does not mind keeping busy as a volunteer because he enjoys the camp’s traditions and good times, he said.

“I know most of these kids and adults who go to this camp look forward to it every year,” Hansen said.

From team-building games to the theme announcement — which is different every year and even kept secret from volunteers until the first night — Hansen looks forward to all the details. He also looks forward to seeing the friends he made while volunteering.

For example, a 19-year-old camper Hansen befriended is also a familiar face in the local hockey community.

“Every single time I go to camp, I see him as a camper… But when I help out with a hockey team, I see him helping out with another hockey team and he goes to my games,” he said.

Now celebrating its 75-year anniversary, Easter Seals administers its accessible summer camps and other programs on behalf of BC Lions Society For Children With Disabilities. Easter Seals’ Shawnigan Camp location is closed this year for construction, while Camp Winfield and Camp Squamish are still on.

ALSO READ: VIDEO: A look inside Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan

With the change of location, Hansen will not volunteer at the summer camp this year. He still plans to volunteer at Camp Shawnigan next summer, because it is a place he cares about. He can list off the changes to the camp layout throughout the years.

In the meantime, Hansen will volunteer at fundraiser events Easter Seals puts on to help families afford sending a loved one to an overnight camp. Although certain campers are eligible for provincial funding, Easter Seals needs to fundraise. The fundraisers also support the Easter Seals House, a place for families who travel to Vancouver for appointments.

One of the big annual events is the Drop Zone, which involves people fundraising for Easter Seals in order to rappel down a tower. This year, the event takes place at the Guinness Tower on West Hastings Street in early September.

ALSO READ: Easter Seal’s Drop Zone gives participants chance to rappel down 13-storey Victoria building

Last year, Hansen met the rappel teams at the bottom of the tower with the “Drop Zone — I did it!” sign for photos, which he would clean in between teams to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In many circles, Hansen is known as an enthusiastic volunteer for community and sports events. For example, the Braefoot Community Association named Hansen volunteer of the year in 2013.

Hansen keeps a busy schedule as a soccer, basketball and lacrosse referee. He also time-keeps for a West Shore Wolves junior hockey team when it has home games. He time-keeps or referees for a game five or six days a week, he said.

His enthusiasm for community sports began roughly a quarter century ago, when he was cycling near a soccer field. Hansen asked if he could lend a hand. He was told to line the game, meaning it was his job to signal whether the ball went off-side or out of bounds. Since then, he became a soccer referee.

“A lot of people know me as a referee for soccer. I can’t go anywhere in the community without people being like, ‘Oh, you refereed my kid’s game,’ or ‘You refereed my game’,” Hansen said.

As for the Shawnigan Camp closure, Easter Seals said it is working to make the change of location as easy as possible. Campers who are registered for Camp Shawnigan will instead go to the Winfield location in August, organizers told Black Press Media in an emailed statement.

Easter Seals will cover families foot passenger ferry transportation fees to return to Vancouver Island with BC Ferry vouchers, the statement continued. It will also provide a shuttle bus to-and-from Tsawwassen Terminal and the camp.

Over 35,000 children and adults have attended the day and overnight camps. According to an Easter Seals survey, over three-in-four people who attended its camp or online classes reported personal development.

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About the Author: Morgana Adby, Local Journalism Initiative

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