Indigenous Games say they're still 'shy 500 people' to work as volunteers

North American Indigenous Games organizers say they're "still shy 500 people" to keep score and chaperone — roles one novice volunteer says empower First Nations athletes.

For these volunteers, moving forward with reconciliation means giving back to the community

The 2017 North American Indigenous Games are expecting over 5,000 athletes for the week-long event, and volunteers say they still need help. (NAIG)

Liza Parry has been running all her life, but for the North American Indigenous Games, she's standing her ground.

As a triathlete, cross-country runner, mother and daughter of a residential school survivor — the empowering aim of the Indigenous Games speaks to Parry's own life.

"I know how much sport means to me. The hard work and ongoing discipline that goes into improving and excelling at a sport — I've seen that also in my children," she said.

So last month, Parry decided to devote her spare time to helping young athletes from across the continent, and she's one of about 1,500 others determined to make these games a success.

Liza Parry and her family keep active, and she says she can't get through a day without including some kind of sport. (Supplied by Liza Parry)

But it may not be enough: organizers are calling for others to pitch in with just a month to go before the games open.

"We're shy 500 people," said Khristine Crooks Lines, a volunteer lead and herself an avid football player. She's kept busy canvassing, even asking friends and old coworkers to join the ranks.

Crooks Lines urges the public to apply if they want a unique experience. "The games are going to be something you've never seen before," she said — imagine keeping score at the 3D archery tournament, where shooters hit life-sized dummies mimicking wild game.

Khristine Crooks Lines, right, pictured here with Premier Kathleen Wynne, is a seasoned North American Indigenous Games volunteer who says the event will be unlike any other. (Supplied by Khristine Crooks Lines)

It's a chance for cultural exposure, too, says Crooks Lines. "There are over 200 Indigenous languages, and there's no book to learn them from," she points out. 

Crooks Lines says the games are still looking for drivers, chaperones, scorekeepers and timers.

Supporting the next generation part of reconciliation, volunteer says

Parry, for her part, vets wannabe volunteers. It can be frustrating work if applications fall through, as Crooks Lines explained, but newcomer Parry doesn't seem to mind. 

"I want to do everything I can to contribute to the success of the games," Parry said.

She believes her passion is rooted in her family's past.

In an email sent to CBC Toronto, Parry examined why she's so dedicated to the games.

"My mom, Myrna is a survivor of Shubenacadie Residential School, in Nova Scotia," she wrote. "Her time at the school has had a lifelong emotional impact for her."

Liza Parry, a first-time games volunteer, says helping out is a way to give back to her community. She follows in the footsteps of her grandmother, Eliza Moore, who Parry says was a cherished part of Membertou First Nation. (Supplied by Liza Parry)

Parry recalled a childhood spent with her maternal grandmother, who she says was a cherished part of Membertou First Nation. 

"There was a ball field next door to her house, and other Mi'kmaq communities would come to play against the Membertou team," she wrote. "Grammy may as well have had a revolving door, because ball players would file into her house to use the washroom.

"Then a good handful would come in to join us at the table for our Sunday meal," she added.

"As much as I can, I try to follow Grammy's example of loving and caring for my family and my community."

And that includes supporting the games' young stars. 

"I know how empowering it is to achieve your goals, to work towards your goals," Parry said. "And that spills out into all areas of your life."