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  • ESSEX FREE PRESS

Long-time EMHA volunteer earns OMHA‘s Patricia Hartley Administrators Award

- Jane Zelko has volunteered with EMHA since the 2010 hockey season -


by Sylene Argent

Photo submitted by Jane Zelko.

Last week, long-time Essex Minor Hockey Association (EMHA) Registrar volunteer, Jane Zelko, learned she was the esteemed recipient of the Ontario Hockey Association’s (OMHA) Patricia Hartley Administrators Award, which is presented in recognition of exemplary service in the field of sports administration.

  A very humble Zelko was, “taken back by the award.”

  Being nominated was an honour, she noted. “I am humbled that I was nominated by Shawn Carswell and Mike Sales [of the EMHA] for the award,” Zelko said, adding actually being appointed for the award was even more of an honour.

  Sales and Zelko are co-Registrars, responsible for registering the players. They make sure the players are in the correct boundary for the area in which they are playing, add them to a roster, and get approval by the OMHA. The duo also makes sure coaches are certified. This entails, on average, upwards of 450 to 500 players, in addition to around 175 coaches, trainers, managers, and around 35 teams per season.

  “Everybody loves Jane,” Sales said in video posted online about the recognition. “If anybody needs a hand with anything, and Jane’s around and she can help, she will help in a heartbeat.”

  Fellow volunteers featured in the video posted noted Zelko always goes above and beyond and the work she does is amazing.

  Zelko said there are so many volunteers out there who are deserving of the recognition. “Every Volunteer counts,” she said.

  Zelko began volunteering with the EMHA during the 2009-2010 season. When her boys started playing hockey, the general rule was to be at the arena one hour before practice or game. It was during that time, she could see the volunteers looking for extra help with certain tasks.

  “I was there anyway, so I offered to help. I decided to go the AGM annual meeting with no intention of joining the Board, however, I was nominated to fill the position as Registrar and couldn’t say, ‘no,’” Zelko said of her early introduction to volunteering with the local hockey organization.

  EMHA is always in need of volunteers, she said, adding when positions go unfilled, the Association struggles. “One body down in a position affects the entire organization. We show up for the players, and their families. Without volunteers, there is no organization,” she commented.

  “I strive to make every body feel important,” Zelko said of her goal as a volunteer with EHMA. “I try to memorize each player’s name when they cross the registration desk on evaluation day. I do my best to make each and everyone of them feel welcome and know they will have a great experience being a part of EMHA.”

  Funding, she added, is always a big role needing attention. Many youths want to play hockey, and Zelko tries to make that happen. “Some families are not able to get government funding as they are on the cusp of the allowable income levels. If a parent reaches out for help, we reach out to sources in the community to help as best they can. We do this anonymously and as quietly as possible in order to keep the families’ names private.’

  EMHA also has community partners that reach-out directly to give a donation to help a player in need. Usually, the donations are made in honor of someone they know, “Which is always fantastic to see. I hope to keep helping players and families in need. Helping just one player is better than helping no player.”

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