In 2001, Taunya Geelhoed was one of thousands of athletes competing at the BC Summer Games in Victoria.
Today, she is a key member of the team organizing the 2016 B.C. Summer Games in Abbotsford.
Sports has been a lifelong passion for Geelhoed, who accepted the position of manager of operations for next summer’s Games earlier this fall. The Mission Secondary School grad was a soccer star growing up, and was a key part of the Fraser Valley team’s bronze meda lwin back in 2000.
Recalling the 2001 Summer Games, Geelhoed said, “I remember it was a big deal and it meant a lot to be a part of that team. Making that means you’re on the right path to making a provincial team and you’re on the pathway to being the best in your area.”
In her teens, Geelhoed also played with Team Canada and Abbotsford resident and World Cup soccer star Sophie Schmidt. Her skills on the pitch helped her earn a scholarship to the University of Louisiana. She spent five years as a Ragin’ Cajun, and was named on the All-Louisiana team in 2006.
After completing her public relations degree in 2009, she spent time as a program co-ordinator for BC Athletics and Athletics Canada.She was also the venue marketing manager for BC Place during the FIFA Women’s World Cup this past summer. The Vancouver venue sold out all four games and now holds the Canadian record for attendance of any national team.
But, it’s not just the bright lights of big events that piques her interest. Geelhoed is also coaching a group of four-year-olds in her current home of Langley.
“It’s a bit of an adventure,” she laughs.
Her new role brings Geelhoed back to her roots in the Fraser Valley.
“I’m very excited. I love everything to do with sport and I remember when I competed at the Games and how memorable an experience it was. It’s cool to be a part of creating that experience for others.”
The Games’ head office at Rick Hansen Secondary School is nearly set up, and from there Geelhoed will dive into her duties. One of her first tasks is to hire about 14 local office staff, including positions in administration, sport directors, promotions, special events and security.
Geelhoed said the best part about the job is the impressive structure already in place.
“It’s a ship that’s already been rolling,” she said. “People are already set up and I’m doing a lot of meeting with volunteers, listening to their concerns and helping them out. I want to use my past experience to be as resourceful as possible with them. This event doesn’t happen without volunteers – they’re invaluable for us.”
The Games will require about 3,000 volunteers, and will bring approximately 4,500 athletes from across the province to Abbotsford. Geelhoed said the volunteer base in this city is solid.
“Managing volunteers can always be interesting, but lots volunteered when the Games were here in 2004,” she said. “It’s always challenging to have 3,000 kids in one spot and entertain them, feed them and make sure no one gets lost. But the Games is a well-oiled machine, they’ve been doing it for quite some time.”
Hiring for the office will be done in coming months, and Geelhoed will head to Penticton in February to observe how the BC Winter Games unfold.
A 2016 Summer Games community awareness event is planned in Abbotsford for Jan. 23, with a torch-lighting marking the 100-day countdown occurring in April.
The Games run in Abbotsford from July 21 to 24. For more information on the event and how to volunteers, visit bcgames.org.