August 6-21, 2022
Meridian Credit Union fr

10/20/21

by: Christopher Séguin

Stronger Together — Niagara Credit Unions join forces in support of 2022 Canada Summer Games

With Canada’s largest multi-sport event set to take place in Ontario for just the third time in the Canada Games’ 55-year history, there’s no denying that the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games represent a generational opportunity for the Niagara community to leave an indelible mark on its twelve municipalities. 

It’s for that very reason three credit unions with deep roots in Niagara are teaming up with a rallying cry to this community to get involved with the 2022 Canada Games in order to make them a success and be a part of their legacy. Namely, Meridian Credit Union, FirstOntario Credit Union and PenFinancial Credit Union are each providing vital support to Niagara 2022 through ownership of unique branded programs, while also joining forces in a show of support as community leaders and partners in the spirit of National Co-op Week and tomorrow’s International Credit Union Day.

“Any time we get to collaborate with other credit unions, especially on such a fantastic initiative as the Canada Summer Games, we are excited because we all share the same underlying values,” explained Wade Stayzer, Meridian Chief People and Culture Officer, SVP Business Banking. “We all have a role to play in community building, and in the case of the 2022 Canada Games, we are working together for a common purpose — the well-being and future growth of the Niagara Region. It’s a vision we all share.”

For many in Niagara, that shared vision is best exemplified by the growing structures visibly being erected across the region as a result of this community hosting the Games. New builds that include the likes of Canada Games Park and the Henley Rowing Centre. However, it seems sometimes we forget that this event is also set to generate $400 million of economic benefits for the Niagara Region, attract over 30,000 visitors, and support over 2,100 jobs both during the organization and delivery of the Games — just a few more of the many legacies that these three credit unions are aiming to help bring to life through their involvement with the 2022 Canada Games.

A recent shot of the Walker Sports and Abilities Centre at Canada Games Park with its new green roof in place. This sport and recreation complex, which is being built at the corner of Sir Isaac Brock Way and Merrittville Highway, will feature two main areas — there’s the main structure called the Walker Sport and Ability Centre, and outside of that will be six competition beach volleyball courts and a 400-metre track-and-field facility (Credit: Raimondo + Associates)

“We have deep roots in the Niagara Region, so it was only natural that we wanted to be a part of the Games and play a role in helping to build a legacy for our local community,” said Ken Janzen, CEO of PenFinancial. “Knowing this is the only time that the Canada Games will be hosted in Niagara made this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us, our employees and our members.”

“We are a community-owned financial institution that has had a strong base in Niagara for over 80 years. So, when the 2022 Canada Games were announced, there was no question in our minds that FirstOntario needed to be involved,” added Lloyd Smith, CEO of FirstOntario Credit Union. “We are all in this together for the benefit of the Niagara Region and we are very proud to host the rest of Canada in Niagara.”

In order to successfully host the country next summer, approximately 4,500 volunteers will be required to support and service all operational areas of the Games, and one of the many quintessential programs being looked after by the credit unions include Niagara 2022’s Volunteer Program, which proudly has Meridian as its official sponsor. 

With 350 planning volunteers already enlisted in the Meridian Volunteer Program (in addition to openings currently available online), thousands more will soon be given the chance to join the 2022 Canada Summer Games team. Specifically, next Monday, the Games volunteer registration portal will officially open and begin accepting online applications for Games-time volunteer roles that will support areas such as sport operations, transportation, ticketing, food services, and media relations — just to name a few.

Two volunteers having a little fun during the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. The Canada Games are ultimately a volunteer-driven event, and in keeping with that time-honoured tradition, next year’s 2022 Canada Summer Games will need close to 4,500 volunteers, many from the Niagara Region, to support and service all operational areas of the Games (Credit: Canada Games)

Ultimately, Meridian and the Niagara Host Society are proud to be following in the footsteps of a time-honoured Canada Games tradition that has now seen over 100,000 volunteers from across the country play a role in delivering this biennial competition since the first Canada Games took place in Québec City back in 1967.

“As the Volunteer Sponsor, this is an opportunity for Meridian to play an integral part in unifying the Niagara Region and ultimately inspire the community to come together and give back,” said Stayzer. “My hope is that we can demonstrate to the country how proud and eager Niagara volunteers can be in coming together for their community — and hopefully inspire others to follow suit. 

“I’ve got no doubt that these Games will truly open the door and welcome even more world-class events to the Niagara Region that Meridian will be ready and willing to support.”

Stayzer isn’t wrong about the latter. With thousands set to volunteer next summer, that group of individuals will remain available post-Games to support Niagara's sport community in future event bids and hosting — acting as a lasting human resources legacy. Additionally, this collection of volunteers will also include over 750 trained minor and major officials in 18 different sports, which will only increase the ability of the region to deliver future events to a national standard.

“By supporting the Games, we know that we’re contributing to something that will have a lasting legacy on the Niagara Region,” added Janzen. “PenFinancial is driven by our mission to improve lives and strengthen communities so you could say that giving back is in our DNA.”

Niagara 2022’s official mascot, Shelly, poses for a photo at the rainbow crosswalk found on Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus. A friendly and energetic turtle, Shelly proudly represents our region and is happy to welcome all Canadian athletes and visitors to Niagara. Shelly is proud to be an ambassador for all things turtle, shining a light on the eight endangered turtle species in the Niagara Region.

In keeping true to that statement, PenFinancial’s involvement with the Games is aimed especially at giving back to Niagara’s youngest demographic as a co-sponsor to both the 2022 Canada Games Catch The Spirit and Mascot programs.

The Catch the Spirit educational program involves the engagement of Niagara’s youth through presentations at school assemblies (mostly virtual) for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 8. It’s a program that is used to teach children about the Canada Games movement, and build awareness for the benefits of physical activity and sport. Plus, Shelly, Niagara 2022’s turtle Mascot, is also a key participant in those presentations which include content relating to environmental sustainability, turtle conservancy, Indigenous peoples, and the 2022 Canada Summer Games themselves.

“When we learned about the Catch the Spirit program and Shelly, we knew this was a unique opportunity to be a part of something very special,” said Janzen. “Our involvement with the Catch the Spirit and Mascot programs has allowed us to do something specifically aimed at the youth in Niagara.

“We were immediately impressed with Shelly’s messaging around inclusivity, sustainability and the connection to our local Indigenous history and how that message will be shared with Niagara’s youth. Plus, we’ve already seen first hand Shelly’s ability to put smiles on faces of all ages – which is something we all need right now.”

As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and look ahead to next summer, it’s hard to not feel optimistic about what the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games could represent to the country as a whole.

Former frontman of Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle, performs at the 2019 Canada Winter Games 52° North Music and Cultural Festival in Red Deer, Alta. Although the Canada Games are known as a sporting competition for up-and-coming Canadian athletes, they always feature a strong cultural component. In the case of Niagara 2022, those will be exemplified by two festivals events, one called Niagara Place, and the other named the 13 For 13 Cultural Festival  (Credit: Chelsea Bootsman / Canada Games)

Inherently, the Canada Games serve as a nation-building event. They are designed to bring Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast together for a celebration of Canada’s sport, art, culture and community — and Niagara 2022 might just be one of the first occasions that we are truly able to be reunited as a country.

Arguably, there’s no event at the 2022 Canada Games that might better serve that purpose than the 13 For 13 Cultural Festival, which is a one-of-a-kind initiative being sponsored by FirstOntario. Held on select evenings during the Games, this festival event will see each of Niagara’s 13 municipalities host a cultural event specific to each Canadian province and territory (schedule available online), allowing visitors of this festival to more or less travel across Canada without leaving Niagara.

“Coming out of the pandemic, the 2022 Canada Games will be a much-needed celebration of youth, sports and community,” said Smith. “Niagara is hosting this celebration and inviting the country to join us. The 13 For 13 Cultural Festival is a true celebration of Canada with each province and territory having their own distinct evening of entertainment and culture. FirstOntario requested to be the sponsor of the ‘Ontario Night’, and we’re excited and proud to have the opportunity to showcase and celebrate what makes Ontario and Ontarians unique.”

In addition to their involvement with all the above-stated programming, the three Niagara credit unions will also partake in some friendly competitive fun as joint sponsors to the Niagara 2022 Torch Relay program, which will see the Roly McLenahan Torch makes its way across the Niagara Region in June and July of 2022 after journeying along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle (left) and Niagara 2022 Board member Karen Natho (right) pose for a photo in the Niagara Region during the 2019 Canada Winter Games Torch Relay. In June and July 2022, the three Niagara credit unions will partake in some friendly competitive fun as joint sponsors to the Niagara 2022 Torch Relay program (Credit: 2019 Canada Winter Games)

Specifically, FirstOntario will take ownership of the relay’s initial Niagara leg in Thorold, and its last one in St. Catharines, all before it will make its way to the Opening Ceremony at the Meridian Centre, where the torch will light the cauldron that officially begins the 2022 Canada Summer Games. Prior to that, between the beginning and end of its Niagara journey, PenFinancial will be sponsoring the torch’s visits to Niagara Falls and Welland, while Meridian will sponsor its leg in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is where the cooperative was originally founded.

At heart, this major milestone event, supported by Team Credit Union, should generate excitement and create a festive-like atmosphere in the build-up to the 28th edition of the Canada Games, which will hopefully provide this Niagara community with a long-overdue celebration and joyous occasion after what will have been a difficult period.

“The past 18 months have been incredibly challenging for everyone in the Niagara Region,” stated Janzen. “When the 2022 Canada Summer Games come to Niagara, we hope that this will be an opportunity for us all to come together once again and cheer on the talented athletes, re-engage with our communities, and showcase our region.”

“We are all looking forward to welcoming visitors and watching and cheering on our young Canadian athletes who have worked so hard to prepare for these Games and who may one day also go on to represent Canada at the Olympics and Paralympics,” added Smith.

Andre De Grasse celebrates with his Ontario teammates following their gold medal victory in the 4x100m relay event at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. At the most recent Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, over 30% of Team Canada’s athletes and coaches were Canada Games alums, with representation coming from nine of our country’s 10 provinces (Credit: Canada Games)

“It has been a long-awaited event and it is so exciting that we are heading towards the finish line of a vision several years in the works,” highlighted Stayzer. “We are especially elated to welcome lacrosse back to the Canada Games for the first time since 1985, supported by a newly formed Indigenous Partnership Council and a strong commitment to bring an aspect of Indigenous culture to the Games. It’s always a great moment when you get to watch history in the making.”

In many ways, the Niagara Region is already witnessing history as a direct result of its hosting duties next summer. New builds, infrastructure improvements and the development of community programs are just some of the many legacies already being generated by the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games — and all of it is only made possible thanks to the investment and support of strong, community-minded organizations like Meridian, PenFinancial, and FirstOntario.

Interested in more articles like this one? Sign up for our N22 Action Newsletter to receive alumni stories, updates about Niagara 2022, and to learn about opportunities on how you can get involved with Canada's largest multi-sport competition

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