Seven years ago, Jenna McBain needed a change.
Tired of a career in the retail industry, she decided to apply for a job as a part-time receptionist at Langley Gymnastics, despite having no experience in the field or history with the sport.
“I just wanted to try something different,” she said.
She got the job, and to say it worked out – not just for her, but for hundreds of young gymnasts, too – is something of an understatement.
Now the operations manager of White Rock Gymnastics, where she has worked for the past five years, McBain, an avid volunteer, is set to be honoured with a Presidents’ Award at next month’s 2020 Sport BC Awards. The award is handed out annually to “volunteers from Sport BC member organizations who represent the spirit of volunteerism and whose dedication, energy and commitment contributed to the development of their sports or organization.”
McBain was nominated for the award by Gymnastics BC, which last October also named her its volunteer of the year.
“It totally came out of the blue. I didn’t know I was getting it, but absolutely, it was a nice surprise,” said McBain, who found out about the Sport BC nomination last fall.
She will receive her award at a March 12 event at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Since joining White Rock Gymnastics – which operates under the same umbrella as White Rock Divers, and shares a facility just off Croydon Drive in South Surrey – McBain has served as both office and operations manager, and has also put in countless volunteer hours developing an adapted-needs program for special-needs students.
Today, the program – which received a boost a few years ago in the form of a $1,000 grant from provincial sports organization ViaSport – hosts about 50 students from local schools, with three one-hour sessions held each week.
“It’s probably what I’m most well-known for in South Surrey. I just saw a great need for a gymnastics program that was structured for special-needs students,” explained McBain, a Langley resident whose volunteer experience also includes time with Operation Red Nose and also as a coach with the BC Winter Games.
“I didn’t have any gymnastics background when I started but I just love working with children, and I worked with a lot of special-needs athletes at my old gym (in Langley) as well, so it’s been a great fit. It’s just been a passion of mine.”
In her role as operations manager, McBain has also been instrumental in numerous other projects, from scheduling events or taking a lead role in the remodelling of the facility.
She is also the chief social-media co-ordinator for the gymnastics centre, and is so active in promoting others that, when asked by PAN if there were any photos of her working at the facility, her colleagues came up empty.
“She’s usually behind the camera,” said Jen Olthoff, White Rock Gymnastics’ recreational director.
Bev Boys, the founder of White Rock Divers – and someone McBain called “a great mentor to me” – told Peace Arch News that McBain “has changed the face of White Rock Gymnastics and Diving Academy.”
“Jenna is amazing. One of the kindest and hardest working people I have ever worked with,” Boys continued. “Amazing volunteer, fundraiser and (she) never stops thinking about how things can be better.”
The accolades come from other members of the organization, too.
Gymnastics coach Rosemary Roblin called her “an incredible part of the heart and soul of White Rock Gymnastics,” while Joanne Pfeffer, the parent of a gymnast, said McBain “is an exceptional example of a leader that is deeply invested in our gym, community and sport.”
In addition to the Presidents’ Award, the March 12 event will also see a handful of local athletes honoured for successful 2019 performances. Surrey athletes up for awards include former White Rock Renegades pitcher Sara Groenewegen – currently a member of the Canadian national women’s softball team – Semiahmoo Secondary basketball star Deja Lee and Semiahmoo Peninsula coach Lynn Kanuka.