Mike Leishman is the current President of the Jozo Weider Parent Volunteer committee. He has been president for the last 6 years and has given countless hours of his time, energy and talent.
Mike has always been a volunteer. He is one of those rare people who sees a need, and he fills it, giving his time, sometimes his money, and his energy to help make something better. About 6 years ago as he got more involved with Jozo as the parent of 2 daughters in the racing program, he saw areas where improvements to the Jozo program, and specifically to the Volunteer (Parent) Committee could be made. At that time, the Volunteer Committee was not financially stable, they had a surplus of old and unsold inventory, volunteerism was low, the annual fundraising was a drain on parents' pocketbooks and resources, and missing was the sense of "team" or "family" that one gets at other clubs. He wanted to change all of these things. The following year, he stepped up to be President of the Volunteer Committee, and he got to work. Over the past 5-6 years here is what he has done:
- created a true "team" environment with greater emphasis on team results than on individual ones
- introduced the idea of being a "member" of a club within Blue Mountain; families now pay a voluntary annual membership at the beginning of the season and we don't ask them for money again. In return for their membership fee, families receive specific benefits including a Jozo branded gift for every athlete, some draw prizes, team and individual photos, trophies and medals for the athletes, and so on.
- developed a weekly newsletter that goes to Jozo parents throughout the ski season, and helped to further develop the Jozo website, featuring lots of photos of our athletes not just skiing but having a lot of fun on and off the slopes
- sold off all of the old inventory and moved to an annual practice of only selling Jozo branded items that are pre-ordered and prepaid by parents; a team of volunteers now look after clothing sales for the Committee
- while Jozo has for many years offered bursaries to athletes who quality for provincials and other competitions, the club is now in a position to offer merit awards to about 40 athletes per year, in the form of a gift card to spend at a local ski shop. This helps to recognize and spread the wealth across more of the athletes, encouraging them to continue to strive for excellence.
- initiated corporate sponsorship opportunities (and found a volunteer to manage it) which now results in about $15,000 in extra revenue for the club. Sponsors are featured on the Jozo website, and flags are posted all around the finish line and the awards area at every Blue Mtn. race, to recognize our sponsors.
- never shy to do the work on his own, Mike has created an environment where parents want to volunteer because it is fun. There is an environment of mutual respect, camaraderie, and openness to ideas. All volunteers are shown appreciation and they receive recognition.
- recognizing a knowledge gap amongst the families of the youngest athletes who are newest to the Club, he created spots for an extra manager or two to oversee and to work closely with the individual team managers of this age group; volunteerism and paid "membership" across this age group has grown exponentially.
While his mantra remains "we do parties", Mike has worked closely with Blue Mtn. to:
- acquire better training hills for all of the athletes
- build a new start hut and finish hut (he had his friend Brian draw up plans for the start hut that was built last summer)
- provide Freelap timing watches for all teams to use, and in 2015-16 a new timing system is being introduced
Blue Mountain is a big resort and it isn't always easy to meet and get to know the other athletes' families. But everyone loves a good party, so Mike introduced opportunities for socializing:
- initiated the Family Day party - music, food, dancing, and games for the kids
- changed the AGM to an 'opening party' with a bit of AGM thrown in along with a ski swap
- at the season-ending banquet, he removed the long speeches and the emphasis on awards by shortening this part of the night; this event is now a sold-out celebration of all athletes in the room, complete with a DJ, an awesome year-end video, and loads of fun.
But in summary, what has made Mike such a great volunteer and Committee President is his willingness to go the distance to ensure that each family and athlete has the best ski experience possible. Handy with tools, he has built home-made helmet stands (which lasted for a season before they disappeared), he has spent hours outside in the dark building and painting bean bag toss games for the kids to play at the Family Day party, he attends every team meeting at the beginning of the season to answer parents' questions, and he shows up each weekend having printed all of the start lists for the weekends' home races. On race days, whether at home or away, he can be found gate-keeping, slipping the course, organizing the athletes or keeping them warm, running coats, and cheering every single one of them on, usually with a cowbell tied to his ski pants. And he is always on hand to give out the post-race awards. I don't think it is possible to calculate the number of hours he has given to Jozo to make it the great place that it has become.
Jozo parents also know "Leish" for his lunch-time announcements at the Inn, his ever-present smile, and his willingness to loan anything that someone might need or have forgotten. He has given out more hand and toe warmers than you can imagine, and most recently I spotted him giving away a (clean) pair of ski socks to a young boy who had forgotten his.
Leish is happiest when he is on the hill with the athletes. A former racer himself, he always has a tip or two to share, while ever-respectful of the coaching staff. When he has the time, he enters the occasional Masters race, and with no training and no race suit, he still manages a respectable finish! When he retires this year from his President's role, I think we will find Mike taking the lead with the Jozo alumni parents, to ensure that they stay connected and continue to support the Jozo Weider Volunteer Committee and race program at Blue Mountain.