At the core of the city, where the Red and the Assiniboine rivers meet, on any given day this coming week, you can find a heart of gold. He'll be prepping the ice at The Forks for the upcoming Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel, and his energy and warm generosity will melt the coldest of hearts, even during one of the coldest of winters.
Dean Jones is a 40-something stay-at-home dad who is often described by others as a "generous-type of person." He runs a DJ business as well as a computer repair business from his home in order to help raise his four-year-old and seven-year-old sons. And he's setting a fine example for his little ones when it comes to giving back to your community. He's shaved his head to raise funds for cancer research. He gives blood every other week. And for the last 10 years, he has helped organize the Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel at The Forks to help raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba.
"I wear many different hats," laughs Jones. "I wear my husband cap, my father cap and yes, my Ironman cap."
February, undoubtedly the month for huge heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and teddy bears holding hearts proclaiming love, is also heart and stroke month. When a friend of his approached him 10 years ago asking for help organizing the bonspiel, Jones said he immediately agreed because the cause is definitely one that is close to his heart.
Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in Canada.
"Everybody knows someone, even a loved one, who has been affected by heart disease," says Jones.
The 12th Annual Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel will take place Feb. 8 to Feb. 10. The not-for-profit event attracts curlers young and old from across North America. From the very experienced to the very inexperienced curlers, people attend the event for three reasons: to have a good time, to win that Ironman trophy and to raise money for heart and stroke research. But the event doesn't just raise awareness of the issue of heart disease -- it helps promote outdoor activity, even in the dead of winter.
"In wintertime, a lot of people shut themselves inside their homes, watch TV," says Jones. "The bonspiel gets people out and active in the middle of February. It's a great way of promoting physical fitness and how much fun it can be looking after your heart."
Ironically, though Jones likes to stay active, playing softball in the summer and 10-pin bowling during the winter months, he is, admittedly, not much of a curler. He and his wife tried it once or twice a few years ago but to no great avail. But that doesn't seem to stop him from pitching in. The first couple of years he spent doing everything from carrying 40-pound rocks to helping make ice. Now he sits on the organizing committee and helps look after technologies like the phone systems, websites and social media.
"I've gone from sweeping ice in the first year of volunteering all the way to helping co-ordinate the whole event in recent years," says Jones.
But Jones says that the heart of the matter is this -- none of his volunteering would be possible without the support of his loving family. Whether it's his in-laws taking care of his little ones on days he goes to donate blood or his wife bringing the children down to support his work at the bonspiel, volunteering takes family, it takes heart.
Jennifer Kaufman, volunteer manager for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba, couldn't agree more.
"What we do here at the foundation could not be possible without volunteers like Dean," says Kaufman. She says that last year alone, volunteer canvassers and private citizens holding events to raise money and awareness of heart disease helped the foundation raise $629,000 for research into heart disease in Manitoba.
For more information on how to get involved, go to www.ironmancurling.com and www.heartandstroke.mb.ca.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please email firstname.lastname@example.org