By CHERI ILG HAAS
If you visit an Olympic Snowbirds rally, expect to have such a great time that you find yourself joining the chapter before the weekend is over. At least that’s what most guests end up doing, according to chapter president Denny Nelson, F205137. As many chapter members know, those who make up this group have formed a second family. The sense of friendship is contagious, even to non-Olympic Snowbirds.
That’s essentially how the chapter has grown from its humble beginnings in October 1984, when it was chartered. Local FMCAers met in Lacey, Washington, and decided to form a chapter for the members who lived in western Washington.
Fred and Jean Hemp, F24102, attended this initial meeting. When the chapter was 2 years old, Fred was elected chapter president. He and his wife revived the membership, which had dwindled down almost to inactive status, and helped build a strong foundation for the group. There are now 120 Olympic Snowbirds families. The chapter was so named by Fred and Jean because many of the members lived in the Olympic/Puget Sound area, and many were snowbirds who traveled south for the winter.
But when the chapter’s members are in Washington, they make the most of it with six rallies from May to October. Members also come from as far as Montana and southern Oregon to participate in the fun. Rallies usually consist of approximately 40 coaches and usually begin on Fridays although many folks arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. Members spend time visiting one another and playing games such as cards, golf, and dominoes. They also have beanbag game tournaments and create crafts together. Visiting areas of local interest is another must for an Olympic Snowbirds rally.
As in most chapters, members take turns hosting Olympic Snowbirds rallies. But they have plenty of help in this group; three or four couples usually host each rally, Denny said. He also mentioned that the events always include plenty of great food prepared by the members.
Olympic Snowbirds also enjoy volunteering at other FMCA rallies and conventions. One can find at least 70 individuals sharing their time and talents at each Northwest Area Rally, Denny said. In Redmond, Oregon, 75 Olympic Snowbirds volunteered at FMCA’s summer 2004 international convention.
Members also have caravanned to FMCA conventions from Washington to cities as distant as Buffalo, New York, in 2003, and Brunswick, Maine, in 2000. Another caravan is planned to FMCA’s 74th International Convention in Minot, North Dakota, this coming August. Already, more than 40 coaches are scheduled to participate in the event.
The Olympic Snowbirds celebrated their 20th anniversary last October in Lebam, Washington, during a four-day rally hosted by Tim and Shannon Shea, F280407, and a committee. Chapter members in more than 60 coaches shared in the festivities. Northwest Area vice president Jim Phillips, F158824, and his wife, Ann, were among the members who were on hand to celebrate.
Chapter dues are $20 annually plus a one-time $10 fee for each member badge. Members receive a monthly newsletter throughout the chapter’s rally season, not to mention the opportunity to meet an energetic group of fellow RVers. When asked the secret to this chapter’s success, Denny replied, “It is just a casual, relaxing, fun way to enjoy time with friends and spend time in our coaches.”
Those interested in more information about the Olympic Snowbirds can visit the chapter Web site, www.olympicsnowbirds.org, or contact FMCA’s Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.