Volunteer Profile: Williams Employee Carmela Hill
If you think you need to be a runner to volunteer for the Williams Route 66 Marathon, think again! Williams employee Carmela Hill has been a fixture on the volunteer team for the Williams Route 66 Marathon for the past 8 years despite not being involved in the sport herself. “When you live close to downtown, there are so many different races that close off the streets on the weekends,” she says. “I figured that I can’t get around downtown anyway, so I might as well be part of the action! It was by proximity that I was interested in volunteering for Route 66, but I loved it so much and had so much fun that I ended up signing up to run a water stop after my first year.”
Ever since that first year, Carmela has served as the primary coordinator for the Williams water and entertainment stop at 41st and Peoria Avenue, around mile 7.5 for the marathon and half marathon courses. The station features water, Gatorade, and entertainment – in fact, Carmela is the lead singer of the band that entertains runners there each year! “We like to say we keep runners motivated and hydrated,” she laughs. “We invite the entire community to come out and cheer with us and bring their blankets and chairs. It’s a lot of fun!”
Motivating all of the participants is Carmela’s favorite part of her role as a volunteer, and she knows how important it is to give her best energy to every person on the course. In fact, one of her favorite volunteer memories involves interacting with the final runner several years ago. “We do not break down until the last runner comes past. One year, it was a woman who had to have been about 90 years old. She was powering through, but I could tell she was struggling,” she says. “Rather than just doing our normal routine, all of the volunteers at our stop walked up to her and encouraged her. We suggested that she rest for a second and talked to her about her motivation for doing the race. She was so grateful that we took the time to talk to her, and she kept going!” The positive energy and enthusiasm from Carmela and the entire water stop team does not go unnoticed, and it is clear that she is passionate about volunteering. “The last person is worth staying for – just as much as the first person! I remember that every year and I always look out and make sure to encourage the person finishing last just as much as I encourage everyone else,” Carmela notes.
Although she doesn’t consider herself a runner today, Carmela did participate in a Williams Route 66 Marathon event one year! “After the third year of volunteering at the water stop, I did commit to doing the Couch to 5k program with some coworker for Williams,” she says. “I did my first and only 5k at the Route 66 Marathon 5k several years ago – where else?”
When asked what advice she has for prospective volunteers, Carmela responds with her signature encouragement. “I would tell them to definitely be open to this as a new experience,” she says. “You really get to encourage people on their way to reaching a goal. Everyone has a different reason for running the marathon, but regardless of the marathon, the encouragement that we give them towards reaching their goal is so important! Anyone can find value in that.”