Every June, 120 people come out to volunteer at the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River. But this year, the volunteer who organized all of the other volunteers is gone, and her absence is being felt.

Jill Taylor, who passed away unexpectedly last October, used to spend each spring signing people up to time races and measure jumps in the rain, snow, and sun (because it wouldn’t be Track and Field if you didn’t pack for all seasons). She had been an active volunteer at the event throughout the eight years she lived in Hay River.

“She was one of the biggest supporters of Track and Field. She felt that everybody should be involved and participating, and that it was a great thing for the kids and for our town,” said Tim Borchuk, co-organizer of the event.

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He explained that on Wednesday, the first day of Track and Field, he recognized just how much Taylor had done to make the event happen behind the scenes when he realized they were missing a few things, like some cleaning supplies – things that, in past years, Taylor had taken care of without anyone knowing.

The community has come together in her absence, and organizers say there are a handful of new volunteers this year. Dian Papineau-Magill, who used to volunteer in the kitchen during the meet, has stepped into the volunteer coordinator role.

“I knew how passionate Jill was about track, and she had always been a mentor to me. I knew that the role needed someone who knows people here and so I volunteered,” she said.

“Yesterday I was probably the most scared I’ve been in my life of doing anything, but once the first event got going and it looked like the kids were having fun, I was OK.”

While the role has come with a steep learning curve, Papineau-Magill says it has been an ‘exhilarating’ experience. After making it through the two days, she says she would like to do it again next year.

“We needed another energizer bunny, and I think we got one,” said Borchuk.

NWT Track and Field Championships run June 6-8 this year.