Canada Games organizers are looking for turtles.
Turtle mascots, that is.
The search for volunteers to help with many aspects of the games coming to Niagara in 2021 is ramping up, but one of the first needs is for several people who can put on a turtle costume and go into schools and other events leading up to the games, beginning this month, says Vittoria Wikston, senior manager of marketing and community development for the games.
She is hoping for “a robust group” of up to 20 people who can share mascot duties, based on their availability, she says. They will go into schools through the Catch the Spirit program, and appear in parades and other social activities to help promote the games, right through to the end of the competitions.
Organizers are looking for mascots who are active, physically fit, who can do things such as hit tennis balls or sink a basketball, dance a bit, and be entertaining for students in the 165 Niagara schools, all of which will receive a visit from the mascot, beginning in January.
Mascots must be good with people, like having fun, be upbeat and friendly, and have the ability to “clown around,” says Wikston.
She says school kids in Niagara between the ages of 10 and 18 were asked to submit names and designs for a turtle mascot. A turtle was chosen since there are many species native to the Niagara region, and because Indigenous belief is that a giant turtle created all of North America, and the Niagara Escarpment is the backbone of what they called Turtle Island.
The name and design for the mascot have been selected, Wikston says, and were announced recently at an event in Welland.
Applications for those interested in becoming mascots are online at https://niagara2021.ca/get-involved/volunteering/.
There will be a lot going on in the coming months, including the construction of Canada Games Park, near Brock University, now underway as a legacy project of the games; a new rowing centre at Henley Island; and upgrades to other facilities throughout the region, with funding from all levels of government, says Wikston.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, tennis practices and competitions will take place at White Oaks Tennis Club, and local volunteers are also needed there.
At this point, volunteers are being chosen for key leadership positions, but there will be many more needed as the games get closer — thousands of volunteers will be required for cultural and sporting events.
There is an application on the games website for those who are interested, and in time, there will be more information about what is available and what is required, Wikston says.
Volunteers will be required for events leading up to the games, including competitions, fundraising and alumni events, community and school events and the Torch Relay, and for the games themselves.
Wikston says to check online for more information — anyone interested can leave their name and email address and will be notified as applications are available.