Third Olympics is a charm for Florida Rotarian
Ernie Peterson, a member of the Rotary Club of Deland (Breakfast), Florida, USA, is volunteering at his third Olympic games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Photo courtesy of Ernie Peterson
Ernie Peterson is combining his passions for volunteering and sports during this month's Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Peterson, a member of the Rotary Club of Deland (Breakfast), Florida, USA, is one of 25,000 volunteers serving at the Vancouver Games. It's his third stint as an Olympics volunteer. He's been hooked on the games since he attended the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, as a spectator with his wife, Jeanne.
"I love meeting the athletes. They are simply incredible," says Peterson. "Most of these athletes have trained their entire life for one minute of skiing, ice skating, or whatever sport they are entered in. To see their happiness is what draws me here."
After volunteering at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, Peterson wanted to help out in Vancouver, but his plans almost derailed until he found assistance from other Rotarians.
Finding lodging in Vancouver was nearly impossible. So last summer, Peterson and his wife flew to Canada and visited the Rotary Club of Whistler, British Columbia, to ask whether someone could take them in.
"I asked the club president if I could have a few minutes during a meeting to tell them my story," says Peterson. "Afterward, Doug Mildenberger offered his home to us. If it wasn't for the generosity of Rotarians, I probably couldn't pull this off."
This year, Peterson is working in the media center by day and the medal plaza at night.
"While the days are long and hard, I feel so fulfilled and privileged to be able to witness this all," he says. "I always tell myself after I come home, 'I can't believe I just experienced this.'"
Peterson is looking forward to volunteering at the 2012 Summer Games in London and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. He has volunteered at several other sporting events, including the 2005 Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, and several NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) men's basketball tournaments.
"I love everything about sports, the athletes, fans, and games. It brings people together from all walks of life," says Peterson. "The Olympics and Rotary have a common thread of bringing people from all over the world together. That's why I'm so enthusiastic and proud to be involved in both of them."
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