News Release

Mormon Volunteers Cherish Pan Am Games Experiences

While they don’t wear the official name tags of the full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, several Church members from the Greater Toronto Area accepted the call to serve at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. They were chosen from thousands of applicants for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Aric Pahnke, 29, from Toronto, who is currently studying for his PhD in biomedical engineering, was stationed on Toronto Island. He co-ordinated the arrival and departure of the boats carrying participants and journalists to ensure safe media access to the athletes. He served a two-year mission for the Church in Brazil and was able to use his Spanish and Portuguese language skills at the Games.

Volunteering at the Games was a family affair for Aukse and Yuri Ivanov of Richmond Hill. Aukse is a book publisher with a European journalism certificate who serves as a counsellor in the Church’s local women’s organization, the Relief Society. For her, these Games evoked feelings of nostalgia about her coverage of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics while living in Lithuania.

During these Games she volunteered at the Main Press Centre, where she wrote word-for-word “flash quotes” to help journalists enrich their articles — plus spent two days helping pack more than 1,000 souvenir gift bags for them.

Yuri, a counsellor in the Sunday School presidency, chauffeured VIPs to venues. He met virtually every competitor from the Cayman Islands and became friends with the islands’ top dignitaries, even receiving an invitation to visit them back home.

Many Latter-day Saints, including Kyungeun (Casey) Lee, 27, of Toronto, volunteer their time and talents each week in connection with Church assignments. In addition to fulfilling three callings in her local congregation, Lee was grateful for the unique opportunity to be part of the Games. She was a hostess, usher, ticket taker and greeter for the athletic events held at York University.

During Lee’s first seven-hour shift, she was touched to see the determination of those on the track who, despite falling far behind, gave it their best to finish the race.

Allison Caughill, 17, of Ajax, was an event services host at CIBC Pan Am Park. She answered questions, gave directions and helped get guests excited about the events.

Caughill’s most memorable moment came when her limited sign language allowed her to communicate with a deaf woman attending the Games. “When she saw that I could understand, she got so excited. Her son was touched that someone could speak to her.”

Service is an integral part of life for Latter-day Saints. These unique opportunities for Church members volunteering at the Pan Am Games reinforce the Church teaching that by serving our fellow men and women, we are serving God (see Mosiah 2:17). Worldwide, Mormons can be found serving in their communities.

Former counsellor in the First Presidency of the Church N. Eldon Tanner said, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”

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