When failing ice conditions at the curling club in Lorette, Man., started driving membership down, longtime member Harvey Lyons knew it was time to go to work. His efforts to fix the ice and get membership back on track have earned him the 2014 Volunteer of the Year award from the Canadian Curling Association.
“We didn’t even have a men’s league, because we didn’t have good ice,” says Lyons about the 2013-2014 season in Lorette. “I said ‘If we make the ice better, they will come back.’ And they did.”
But it didn’t happen by magic, says former club president Betty Ann Orr, who spearheaded the campaign to have Lyons recognized for his efforts.
Orr says that membership had taken a “nosedive” two years earlier, when the Men’s League moved en masse to another club in the next town, an action precipitated by the poor ice conditions in Lorette.
That’s when Lyons came to Orr with a plan.
“Harvey was signalling me that he was prepared, as a volunteer, to do whatever it took to restore confidence in our club’s ice conditions and its general management,” she says. “I clearly remember his saying: ‘We have to make the ice better if we are going to keep this club viable.’ That became our common goal.”
The plan started with the ice. Lyons brainstormed with ice technicians at local rural curling rinks and experts in nearby Winnipeg to discover best practices for ice management. He invited Curl Manitoba Chief Ice Technician Greg Ewasko to do an on-site inspection and assessment, and followed that up with a proposal to act on the recommendations provided. That meant getting the club’s Board onside and requesting approval for the necessary expenditures for equipment and training.
Lyons took courses, led volunteers, and even took over for the club’s icemaker when illness kept him away from the ice for three to four weeks during the season.
“There is no job too big or small that Harvey hasn’t been willing to do in an effort to meet our goal,” says Orr, estimating that during the 2013-2014 season, Lyons spent 30-40 hours a week volunteering as part of the Lorette Curling Club Ice Improvement Program.
He even organized the year-end party for the volunteers who took the ice out at the end of the season, adds Orr. “Our club is very much indebted to Harvey Lyons.”
The effects of Lyons’s hard work paid off. The club saw a healthy increase in revenue because the Men’s League not only returned, but also increased in membership — an improvement that “saved our club,” says Orr, and that would not have happened without Lyons’s “enthusiastic and dogged efforts.”
But this retired teacher’s contributions extend beyond the maintenance of good ice, say his friends.
“Harvey also spends countless volunteer hours at the curling rink sharing his love of the game and fellowship with many members at all levels of the game,” says curling buddy and friend Dan Messner. “Harvey is extremely humble and never asks for praise or to be acknowledged. He is just one darn nice guy with lots of curling knowledge that he shares freely for the improvement of the club.”
Being nominated – and winning – this award came as a complete surprise to Lyons, and he says the support of his friends and curling colleagues is something he treasures.
“I had to stop reading at one point,” he says about his emotional response to the letters sent to the CCA supporting his nomination. “We announced it to our membership on Friday between the first and second draw, and it was a wonderful reaction.”
Lyons is currently part of a local committee working towards building a new recreation centre in Lorette – a recreation centre that will possibly house four sheets of brand new curling ice.
“Harvey is a community leader who recognizes that, to be a healthy community, Lorette requires good recreational facilities and programs for people of all ages,” says Orr. “Curling ranks at the top on Harvey’s list, and we are much the richer as a curling club and as a community because of his tireless and inspiring volunteer efforts.”