I LOVE volunteering! Why do I love it? Well like Booker T. Washington says “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else”. It’s not that I do it to make myself feel better, it just so happens that when you help others it is a natural repercussion that you do feel better about yourself, your life, and those around you. I love meeting new people and getting to know them, even if it is just a quick hello in the street or high 5 as they run past with a smile on their face, I know that what I am doing has an impact on their lives whether big or small. Interestingly enough there is a TED talks video I watched recently about “Lollipop moments” which talks about exactly that. Those moments, that to you may be a simple gesture and you forget about tomorrow, may mean the world to someone else or create a drastic change in their lives. Here is the link to the clip if you are interested in watching further. My latest volunteering experience was at Tough Mudder in Auckland on Anzac weekend. Abbey (my sister) and I had both put our names down to volunteer on the Saturday and Abbey was running it on the Sunday. Unfortunately I am still recovering from an ankle injury so didn’t want to risk it getting worse by running the course. Being a close family like we are, mum had come down to drive us to and from the event, it just so happened there was space for her to volunteer on the Saturday (AND Sunday) as well. Getting up at 4am on a pitch black cold and frosty morning was the hardest part! Once we put all our gears on and got on the road we forgot how early it was an started to feel the anticipation of what was waiting for us. This was the first time the Tough Mudder had been run in NZ so other than USA course Youtube video’s we really didn’t know what to expect. After an hour of driving we reached Hampton Downs raceway. It was a lot bigger than I had imagined, and there were already a lot of volunteers there getting amped for the day. We wandered on inside and registered for the day, picking our stations – Abbey and I started on a water station, and mum was delegated to the next free obstacle which happened to be the Electric Eel! We were given our bright orange t-shirts and a delicious bacon and egg breakfast panini then grouped outside for our briefing. Each station was allocated little boxes with radios, maps and instructions for set up, then we were driven off to our separate locations. As Abbey and I were on water station 5 (at the 14km mark) it meant the first hour was down time (apart from the one super speedy guy who finished the course in 1.5hours!!!), so we made friends with the couple who were in the High Five zone next to us and jumped in on high fiving everyone who ran past. This is where our enthusiasm began! My sister is a naturally loud person so she was shouting “woohoo” and getting really into it from the first group who ran through. This put me in a great cheering mood too; I managed to get both hands muddy pretty quickly and somehow got a few photos in! The next four hours were spent at our water station, initially we had the tables set up with empty water cups, then we though it’d be nicer if we filled the cups so the runners didn’t have to stop and get the taps all muddy. After a few groups came through though we realised there were too many runners and not enough time to fill all the cups, so we resorted to holding two piles of stacked cups on the side of the path and handing them out as the runners went past. This worked like a charm and gave us more time and energy to be support every runner and yell out positive comments to on coming groups. This was my favourite part of the day; seeing each person light up when they saw us, and smiling or commenting back when we encouraged them! We were allowed to swap to volunteer on obstacles, however after having a walk around some at lunch time we decided we were quite happy with our little motivational water station set up! We got a chance to chat to some of the mudders while they were filling up their water and having that personal connection with each one as they came past was what made our day. We went home buzzing from the enjoyment of having helped make the event a success and keeping people’s spirit’s up. Water station 5 was the last water stop for the final 6k’s of the course so we had the most important job (in our own minds anyway!) The event organiser’s were fantastic, especially Chris (our zone leader) and Stormy, they made the extra effort of going around every single volunteer and thanking them personally for helping make the event go so well. Along with our delicious breakfast panini’s, and our bright orange volunteer shirts, they also gave us a yummy lunch (filled roll, Moro bars and bananas!) and a free Export Citrus beer at the end of the day (I don’t normally drink beer as I can’t stand the flavour, however this citrus one was delicious and it’s a very low percentage too – the perfect girly beer!). So we helped out and were spoiled with much appreciation and thanks (surprisingly a lot of Mudders said their thanks mid course, and even after the finish line came up especially to say thank you). This is exactly why I LOVE volunteering, it might not mean much to us (although we had a great time), to just one Mudder it could have been the difference between stopping and carrying on. You don’t know who or when, and that’s half the fun, it makes you determined to do a great job just for the chance there will be that one “lollipop moment” in someone’s life.