The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre simply wouldn’t be what it is today without the tireless efforts of our volunteers. So we’re always looking for opportunities to show our appreciation, including professional development opportunities, our emeritus volunteer lunch, volunteer sleepovers, and the annual Tourism Passport Challenge. Each spring during National Volunteer Week we hold the biggest volunteer party of the year: Spring Splash.
This year’s Spring Splash treated 150 of our dedicated volunteers to a catered meal, exclusive access to the exhibits, a special interpretive show and an awards ceremony. When Vancouver Aquarium president and CEO John Nightingale welcomed everyone, the audience murmured in amazement when he noted that last year 1,057 volunteers gave their time, together contributing over 104,000 hours. Dr. Nightingale pointed out that the volunteer program has existed since the Aquarium opened its doors in 1956, and he spoke about the special qualities that the volunteers bring to the Aquarium: their enthusiasm and commitment.
Two volunteers, Marcus and Christine Wernicke, a couple who regularly compete with each other for most hours at the Aquarium swept the adult awards category with 1603 hours each volunteered. Marcus and Christine can be found almost daily assisting with gallery educating, public programs, volunteer training and helping at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Volunteer Pat Chapman won Hours All-Star with 1,100 hours donated last year. The award for most hours for the youth category went to Aaron James, a high school senior who, on top of being in school full time, put in 853 hours educating in the galleries, spotting beluga encounters, assisting Aquarium biologists and volunteering at the Rescue Centre. Makky Lee won for most hours as a new volunteer who recently started as a gallery educator and has also helped the tropical waters biologists behind-the-scenes with animal husbandry. Leesa Watt, avid green lifestyle advocate, cyclist and regular at all our conservation lectures was the winner of our Conservation Award.
Marcus Wernicke also won a leadership award to recognize him as one of the Aquarium’s most passionate advocates. You can often find Marcus on social media educating people on the conservation and research efforts of the Vancouver Aquarium and helping to correct any misinformation. He also inspired his fellow volunteers to share their positive stories of volunteering at the Aquarium and even live tweets from various events so friends of the Aquarium who aren’t able to attend can follow in real time. Marcus said after receiving his award, “It’s a really inspiring place. So many people here inspire us.”
A few years ago, volunteer services introduced the Star Awards, which recognize volunteers who have gone above and beyond the responsibilities of their role, who exemplify the Vancouver Aquarium mission to conserve aquatic life and make the Aquarium an enjoyable place to work and volunteer. The superstars recognized this year were Penny Wentzel, Andrew Baylis, Aaron James, Lisa Baskett and Brian Caron.
Penny, who has been with the Aquarium for almost 15 years, had quite an emotional moment when her Star Award was announced. She said through tears that coming to the Aquarium has given her life new passion. “This place is just amazing. It has been my life for the past 15 years and it’s just exceptional,” she said. She has always loved both people and animals and her work at the Aquarium lets her meld those two loves.
We have to say the same of our volunteers. It’s such a huge pleasure working with all of them every day, and we truly couldn’t do the work we do without them. We’re grateful for opportunities like Spring Splash to say a huge thank you to all of them.
Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at the Vancouver Aquarium? Visit us online to see our up to date openings for volunteer positions, work experience programs and practicum opportunities.