Port Pirie Regional Gymnastics Academy volunteers selfless in support

“We wouldn’t operate without the volunteers.”

INVALUABLE: Port Pirie Regional Gymnastics Academy volunteers Mel Maywald, Ellen Crisp, Olivia Maywald, Marie Cunningham, Billy Venning, Belinda Denny and Kim Hyland.

INVALUABLE: Port Pirie Regional Gymnastics Academy volunteers Mel Maywald, Ellen Crisp, Olivia Maywald, Marie Cunningham, Billy Venning, Belinda Denny and Kim Hyland.

The weighty words of Port Pirie Regional Gymnastics Academy head coach Garry Nayda seemed to ring true at the old Port Pirie library on Tuesday afternoon, as children from across the region stretched, flipped and jumped while dedicated volunteer coaches and committee members looked on proudly.

Thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers, the academy’s only tumbles are left to talented gymnasts on the sprung floor.

With over 150 registered gymnasts, plus regular school and kindergarten groups to manage, the work of the academy’s volunteers is often varied and always crucial according to committee president Marie Cunningham.

Marie said the work of the volunteers in maintaining the club’s structure could not be underestimated.

“You need a secretary, treasurer and all your fundraising committee … without them the club wouldn’t run,” Marie said.

She said volunteer work at the club was not just limited to balancing the books and managing fundraising initiatives.

She said work also involved cleaning, maintenance of gymnastics equipment, the setting up and packing down of apparatuses, coaching and event management were all elements of the club covered by volunteers.

For young coach Olivia Maywald, her three years of volunteer coaching enabled her to develop confidence and leadership skills.

“I love it, all of the girls look up to me and when they see me they say, ‘Livy!’,” Olivia said. “It’s really cute.”

Academy volunteer coach of four years, Ian Eberhard, said watching athletes develop kept him motivated.

He said his time volunteering at the club had benefits for both coaches and athletes.

“It’s a great environment,” Ian said.

“Watching the kids enjoy themselves when they achieve something is fantastic.

“It is nice to know that you had a little part in their success.

“It is great to watch them grow.”

PPRGA secretary Belinda Denny said that while the sport and club operated all year round, the annual Port Pirie Gymnastics Invitational event marked the busiest time for volunteers.

Volunteers often put in up to three hours work per day in the weeks leading up to the invitational, which attracts thousand of people to Port Pirie each year.

But despite the often hefty workload, club fundraising committee member Kim Hyland summed up the inspiration behind the volunteers’ work.

“The kids just love gymnastics,” Kim said.

“That’s why we do it.”