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Oval volunteers champions for Richmond

Don Fennell   Apr-19-2018

Howard Smythe, John Hopkins and John Young have each volunteered over 1,000 hours at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Photo courtesy Richmond Olympic Oval

Richmond has earned many honours through the years, but none are more valued than those championed by volunteers.

At the Richmond Olympic Oval, three individuals’ efforts are particularly exemplary.



During National Volunteer Week (April 15 to 21), the efforts of Howard Smythe, John Hopkins and John Young are being celebrated. The trio form what oval volunteer co-ordinator Alex Tse affectionately calls the thousand hour club.

“These three individuals are truly far-sighted and see how the oval has benefitted the community, and brought both recreation services and people together while encouraging healthy, active lifestyles,” Tse says.

Hopkins started his volunteer journey at the oval even before the building opened in December 2008.

“We didn’t have a formal volunteer program then and he, and the others, took the initiative to learn everything they could about the oval because they wanted to share their passion,” Tse notes. “I find that amazing. In some ways, they became historians on the oval on their own, and have taken and shared this with visitors from around the world, and local school classes, for more than 10 years.”

“We’ve taken a variety of groups through this magnificent gem in Richmond’s crown,” says Hopkins. “The Richmond Olympic Oval is an important, contributing part of the fabric that makes living in Richmond such a pleasure and a privilege. I’ve had more fun than I probably should have had doing what I believed in. As Mary Poppins said: ‘Find the fun and the job’s half way done.’”

Smythe is another familiar face at the oval. Although he moved to Surrey last year, his commitment to giving back in Richmond remains as strong as ever. In fact, if you count his commute, he might even be volunteering more.

“Time goes by when you’re having fun and that is what I think is most important about volunteering,” he says. “Do what you enjoy and you’ll get more out of it yourself. You’ll meet some amazing people and want to do more.”

Founder of the aptly-named Forever Young 8k Race, a running event exclusively for those aged 55-plus which is also hosted the oval and is the first and only one of its kind in Canada, John Young is equally enthusiastic.

“Due to the age restriction, many other race directors said this event might flounder,” said Young. “But with many hours of work, the [first] event got over 330 registrations and sold out.”

Tse isn’t surprised by the trio’s eagerness to give back.

“You might wonder sometimes how leaders like John Hopkins, Howard Smythe, and John Young manage to find so much in themselves to give back,” she says. “But when you see how much stronger, happier, and healthier our community is because of their work, you understand why they’d never want to stop. Volunteers are the heart of Richmond.”

Volunteer opportunities at the Richmond Olympic Oval are designed for sport enthusiasts who wish to inspire others in the pursuit of their dreams and highest achievements. Volunteers serve as exhibit guides and story tellers, trained to relay in an exciting and meaningful way, the inspiring story of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the history of sport in Richmond.

To join the team, visit

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