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The glamour side of volunteering

Sandy sports the volunteer's trendy uniform

The 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester needed 10,000 volunteers and lead to the biggest recruitment drive in the UK in peacetime.

One of those was 48-year-old Sandy Butcher from Poynton, Cheshire. She had never volunteered before but her experience at the Games changed her life.

I enjoy watching sport - I'm a massive Manchester City fan - but I don't really take part in anything apart from a bit of running.

It was such a big event and I thought since it was happening on my doorstep that I should really get involved in some way.

I printed the application off and took it down to the Volunteer Centre in Manchester.

They gave me an interview there and then - thousands of people who applied didn't even get to that stage!

I was working behind-the-scenes helping to make the costumes for the hundreds of kids taking part in the grand opening of the Games.

If they'd told us we'd be working 12-14 hour shifts a day for no pay then we might have thought twice about it!

But I had the most amazing time and the camaraderie was brilliant.

There were thousands of us all dressed in lilac and black tracksuits and I completed mine with a flat cap!

There were volunteers aged between 16 and 87 and all in all we put in an amazing 1,260,000 hours.

Sometimes the work could be very monotonous, like painting thousands of polystyrene balls to make them look like footballs.

Amazingly no-one moaned about the long shifts or the boring nature of the odd job, I guess we were all caught up in the excitement of the occasion.

David Beckham even brushed past me at the opening ceremony, but I wasn't too blown away since I'm a City fan!

I had such a great time as a volunteer at the Commonwealth Games that I decided I wanted to do it again.

So even though I now have a job working at a local playschool I'm looking forward to being a volunteer again at the triathlon this summer at Salford Keys.

And I've even decided to get more into the running and am planning to do a sponsored run soon for Cancer Research.

There are plenty of initiatives and programmes that offer different routes into volunteering.

For details of these, see our opportunities page.

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I encourage my kids by joining in with them. They are too young to be involved in organised sport at school so we try and play during weekends. In terms of gentle prodding, mentioning peer group achievements always works.
- Martin Oliver, father of two


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