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Volunteers for Life – Tennis Canada




They proudly pose for the information booth of the National Bank Open.

They are 75 and 80 years old respectively.

And they often work double shifts during the 10 days of the tournament in Montral.

Jean Marchi and Gaston Ste-Marie are two of the 1,300 volunteers who help the event welcome, inform and guide the 200,000 ticket holders who pass through the stadium gates each year.

This army of smiling hosts is made up of the likes of Jean and Gaston. Whatever the task, they undertake it without batting an eyelid, working long hours and sharing the joy of being on site with the visitors.

And they do it all without paying.

They love tennis, of course, but it’s more than that. Loving people, really loving people, seems encoded in their DNA.

For Gaston, despite working a hundred or so hours, it’s a week-long vacation.

I like people. My job is to answer people’s questions, and I like that. So I’m not tired when I come home after a long day. Physically yes, but not mentally.

For Jean, that sense of belonging is even more important. The NBO is like an annual family reunion, especially now that his wife has passed away. When I was at work, I would take time off to come here. You just show that. Gaston and I love it. It’s like a second life for us, he said with emotion in his voice.

While Jean, 75, hopes to work for another ten years, Gaston, 80, is even more ambitious: I told them that at 95, if I’m having trouble walking, I’ll be an extra in the stands!

For many of the volunteers, who are also tennis fans, the NBO is the chance to combine business and pleasure. When it’s quiet and the benches at the entrance are free, you can sit down and watch the games. Especially late in the evening when it’s not that busy.

Incidentally, the tournament reserves a section for its volunteers, as pictured here, so that they can enjoy a few points during a break.


It’s great to have an army of 1,300 soldiers, but they still need to be instructed. Two of the generals coordinating the operations are Magali Guilbault (left), head of customer service, and Stphanie Madore (right), coordinator of volunteers and references.

I can tell you that there are almost 32 volunteers who are alone on Center Court, Stephanie said. There are 120 on the outdoor lanes and 120 working in all kinds of transportation. There are 103 ball children, about 60 volunteers who are reception staff and the same number of people in access control and hosts and hostesses. There are 50 people in promotions and information, she summed up.

Many of the volunteers, from the locker room staff to the drivers, may be tempted to take pictures of their idols or ask them questions. The same goes for the ushers that professional athletes and celebrities see in the suites.

That’s a hard no.

When people are hired, they are immediately told they have special credentials and cannot ask for photos, autographs or talk to them, Magali explained. Of course they have to respond when a player starts a conversation, but they can’t start anything. Frankly, we don’t need to intervene. Stphanie added: We often hire former ball kids for the players lounge as they are already used to being around them.


The volunteers may not get paid, but they lack nothing. They come with a cap, two sweaters and a jacket to protect them on cooler days and in bad weather.

Every day, on a rotating schedule, they have a meal in the huge cafeteria created on the indoor courts of IGA Stadiums. I ate there every day myself and I can attest that the quality of what the caterer (the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth) served this week was as varied as it was nourishing.

After the final on Sunday, the tournament invites all volunteers to a wrap party where they toast with the organizers.

They will recount memories and anecdotes with the satisfaction of a job well done and, of course, promise to be at the next tennis family reunion in 12 months.




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