Donna Verbeek, right, and other volunteers help rider Tanya Westby at the finish line of the 2016 Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan event. Volunteers are needed for this year’s ride starting July 5. Mark Brett/Western News

Granfondo volunteers needed

Volunteers needed.

If you’re looking for a chance to maybe rub elbows with a celebrity or two, even an elite athlete or better still would just like to give back, helping out with this year’s Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan is just the ticket

“It usually takes about 500 volunteers to run this event and we really couldn’t do it without the volunteers so again it’s my plea to ask people to come out,” said Susan Robinson, the cycling event’s volunteer co-ordinator. “Like so many events the volunteers can make it or break it and our volunteers really make it.”

This year’s seventh annual ride, which usually attracts as many as 3,000 participants is Sunday, July 9 but helpers are needed starting the week before.

“We do a lot of lead up work prior to the event, starting Wednesday July 5 with package assembly and package pickup at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre,” said Robinson. “It’s a really slick operation, we see all of the athletes coming through and I’m looking for people to help out in a number of roles from the fifth through the eighth.”

And while there are no financial renumeration for those who give of their time, there are other great benefits according to the co-ordinator.

“The volunteers I think feel really rewarded, for one thing just being part of a world class event, and this is a world class event, we have people who come from all over the world who say: ‘wow, this is run so well,’” said Robinson. “People are also really treated so well by the participants and organizers, they get a t-shirt and a volunteer appreciation dinner at the Lakeside Resort afterwards.”

She added many people come back to help year after year and even some of the participants donate their time prior to the actual ride.

While the shifts on the day of the event are usually three or four hours, most volunteers get so caught up in the action and excitement they hang around until the end.

Minimum age for volunteers is 16 (with parent or guardian consent).

Anyone interested in helping can go to www.granfondoaxelmerckx.com/register and follow the prompts or connect directly with Robinson at susan@granfondoaxelmerckx.com.