On September 18 myself and five other retired members of the WRAF embarked on what was to be a most amazing experience, writes Edna Hilditch BEM and Royal British Legion Wetherby branch President.
We had all applied to become a volunteer on the Invictus Games website last November after a number of women who had worked at the Florida Invictus Games in 2016 had encouraged us to come ‘Over the Pond’ as they call it.
The Invictus Games is an international sports event, created by Prince Harry, to encourage wounded or sick armed services personnel to take part in sport.
In February after all the preliminaries were completed and we were accepted we set about booking flights and accommodation. As we were all self-funded we decided to rent a house on the outskirts of Toronto to keep costs down.
All training was done online which included Health and Safety along with how to deal with people with disabilities. We met up with two of the women - Amanda who lives in Toronto and Nicola who had flown in from Washington DC on our first day and Amanda had made a special t-shirt for us with EX WRAF’s on Tour logo.
On Wednesday September 20 everyone reported to the Sheraton Hotel which was to be the ‘Village’ for all the athletes and their friends and families.
We made our way to the accreditation desk for our passes and uniform, yellow polo shirts, yellow jacket and the compulsory baseball cap!
The shifts started on Thursday, working for ten days doing a variety of jobs including restricting access to certain areas, taking in meal tickets, giving information out to all the athletes as well as the friends and families and distributing medal boxes to those who had won either of the three medals awarded. It was a different job each day which kept everyone on their toes.
We stayed after our shift to meet the UK team arriving at the hotel on the Friday which was brilliant. Seeing the surprise on their faces when we held up the Union Flag and the RAFA Flag was a sight to behold.
We had one day off where we organised a trip to Niagara Falls for those women who had not visited before. The weather was very warm during our stay which wasn’t quite what was expected but enjoyed nevertheless.
We only managed to get to see the athletics at the Fort York Centre because of our shift system which was a disappointment but to be able to meet and chat to all the athletes in the hotel was a most humbling experience, they couldn’t believe we had paid for our trip from the UK.
We did manage to catch up with some of the games on the big screens they had sited around the hotel.
We met many of the athletes but one, in particular, I was keen to meet - Mark Ormrod whom I had been following on Facebook and had also seen him on the Alan Titchmarsh Gardening programme some weeks beforehand.
Luckily enough Mark came to collect his medal cases - two silvers and two bronzes - while I was on duty and he kindly agreed to have his photograph taken with me.
It was great to be able to support the UK team but every team member was very friendly and thanked us for our support.
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were absolutely wonderful and we all agreed it was an absolute privilege to be part of something so special.