Volunteering at the Workforce Team Challenge

by Barbara Bradley

For some 10 years I’ve participated in the HMRRC Workforce Team Challenge race as captain of the New York State School Boards Association team. After last running the race in 2019, the year I retired, I’d planned to volunteer in 2020. Then COVID hit.

When the race returned to downtown Albany this year, I signed up to volunteer. My job? Assist Corporate Sponsorship Coordinator Tom McGuire, who happens to be my husband. It turned out to be a little wet, a lot of fun and a gratifying experience.

Tom and I arrived at the Empire State Plaza early afternoon on race day and checked in with Race Director Mark Warner and Volunteer Coordinators Nick Stamos and Susan Thompson. All eyes were on our weather apps as ominous dark clouds rolled in.

Corporate sponsorship tents, each marked with individual company signs, were already set up along the length of the plaza with tables and chairs and ice buckets by the time we arrived. First task? Deliver bottled water and ice. For that I learned how to drive a golf cart.

Next job? To meet four different sponsors at staggered times on the State Street side of the plaza and help them bring in their tent supplies – snacks, water, T-shirts, rain ponchos – whatever they’d arranged for transport. That golf cart came in handy, though it offered little protection once the rain and wind started. How would the sponsor tents and their stuff fare? Would the rain keep the runners away? Could I stay dry? (Hint: No!)

Meanwhile, one company’s team captain needed to grab her team’s bibs from the HMRRC tent on the Madison Avenue side without getting her car ticketed on State Street. I volunteered to help and literally ran the plaza length for her bibs. Then I commandeered another golf cart to drive them back. That’s when the rain began to let up and the runners started to slowly trickle in.

After that, Tom checked in with each corporate sponsor that he’d diligently worked with leading up to the race. I followed along and listened to his conversations. How were they doing? Did they have what they needed? He made sure sponsors were happy.

I too talked with folks I knew, including several colleagues from the State School Boards Association and the Freihofer’s Run for Women. I met lots of smiling and laughing company-proud runners as they headed to the starting line. For several seconds it did feel strange not to be wearing a NYSSBA T-shirt and bib.

Fortunately for all, the sun broke through at the start of the race. What a thrill it was to watch the sea of runners and walkers start up Madison Avenue and streak back down to the finish. What a thrill it was finally to be dry!

Once the race ended and the crowds dispersed, Tom and I went back to work. We removed company signs from the tents. We dumped ice and returned empty ice buckets and unused water bottles to the HMRRC van. We shared stories with other volunteers. Then at the end of the evening, we headed home for a well-deserved glass of wine and our own de-brief.

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