Dec 16, 2020

Recognizing the Seven Bronze Medal Volunteers

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
The seven bronze medal volunteers of 2020: Angie Leihy (top left), Leah Fleming (top center), Paige Ervin (top right), Diane and Art Bird (bottom left), Michael Smallwood (bottom right), Cynthia Smith (not pictured).

The sport of eventing, like many other sports this year, has endured a year unlike any other. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the eventing volunteers that helped keep this sport alive. By ensuring competitions ran smoothly and safely, these volunteers are truly the unsung heroes of the sport. Earlier this year, the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) launched the Volunteer Medal Program in an effort to enhance the recognition of these resilient volunteers.

The Volunteer Medal Program recognizes the volunteers who consistently volunteer year after year. Hours earned are cumulative over a lifetime of volunteer service. To earn a bronze medal, volunteers must record 500 volunteer hours; to earn a silver medal, volunteers must record 1,000 volunteer hours; and to earn a gold medal, volunteers must record 2,000 volunteer hours at eventingvolunteers.com.

In its inaugural year of running, seven volunteers achieved a bronze medal by volunteering 500+ hours. These hours have accumulated since December 1, 2016.

Diane Bird. Photo courtesy of Diane Bird.

The leading volunteer featured on the Volunteer Medal Program leaderboard is Diane Bird who has accumulated 860 hours and 42 minutes. She has recorded over 100 volunteer hours every year since 2017. She was the 2019 USEA Volunteer of the Year presented by Sunsprite Warmbloods and in the last three years, she has always been ranked in the top five on the National Volunteer leaderboard. Get to know more about Diane Bird by clicking here.

Diane Bird’s path to a bronze medal:

  • 2020: 222 hours and 43 minutes
  • 2019: 307 hours and 31 minutes
  • 2018: 213 hours and 40 minutes
  • 2017: 103 hours and 27 minutes
Michael Smallwood accepting the 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award from USEA President Carol Kozlowski. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Right behind Bird is the very first USEA Volunteer of the Year presented by Sunsprite Warmbloods, Michael Smallwood, as he has accumulated 838 hours and 42 minutes. The loyal volunteer of the Maryland Horse Trials, Smallwood has recorded over 100 hours every year since 2017. He was the 2017 Volunteer of the Year and in 2018 he was ranked second on the National Volunteer leaderboard. Get to know more about Michael Smallwood by clicking here.

Michael Smallwood’s path to a bronze medal:

  • 2020: 137 hours and 11 minutes
  • 2019: 158 hours and 9 minutes
  • 2018: 322 hours and 16 minutes
  • 2017: 221 hours and 1 minute
Diane Bird (left) with her husband, Art Bird (right). Photo courtesy of Diane Bird.

Diane Bird shares her love for volunteering with her husband, Art Bird, who is ranked third on the Volunteer Medal Program leaderboard. Art Bird has accumulated 681 hours and 49 minutes. Similar to his wife, he too has recorded over 100 hours since 2017. Learn more about the Birds story by clicking here.

Art Bird’s path to a bronze medal:

  • 2020: 144 hours and 39 minutes
  • 2019: 214 hours and 42 minutes
  • 2018: 213 hours and 40 minutes
  • 2017: 103 hours and 27 minutes
Paige Ervin. Mary Pat Stone Photo courtesy of Paige Ervin.

In just three years, Paige Ervin earned her bronze medal. From 2017 to 2019, she accumulated a total of 681 hours and 22 minutes. Last year, she was ranked second on the National USEA Volunteer leaderboard and in 2017 and 2018 she was ranked fifth.

Paige Ervin’s path to a bronze medal:

  • 2019: 268 hours and 41 minutes
  • 2018: 212 hours and 33 minutes
  • 2017: 140 hours and 6 minutes
Angie Leihy. Photo courtesy of Angie Leihy.

Coming in two minutes behind Ervin, Angie Leihy earned her bronze medal this year as she accumulated a total of 621 hours and 20 minutes. Leihy is currently ranked second on the National USEA Volunteer Leaderboard and recorded an impressive 267 hours and 1 minute in 2020. Last year, she also recorded over 200 hours with 211 hours and 13 minutes.

Leihy reached her 500th volunteer hour on Labor Day weekend while volunteering at the Seneca Valley Pony Club Horse Trials (SVPC). She would like to thank the organizers and team at SVPC for making it a very special and memorable weekend.

Angie Leihy’s path to a bronze medal:

  • 2020: 267 hours and 1 minute
  • 2019: 211 hours and 13 minutes
  • 2018: 76 hours and 53 minutes
  • 2017: 66 hours and 22 minutes
Leah Fleming. Photo courtesy of Leah Fleming.

Another volunteer who is currently ranked on the National USEA Volunteer Leaderboard is Leah Fleming, who recorded 150 hours and 52 minutes in 2020. She earned her bronze medal this year as she has an accumulated total of 581 hours and 46 minutes. A loyal volunteer at Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm, Fleming has volunteered at many Championships including this year’s Future Event Horse (FEH) East Coast Championships and the USEA Area II Championships.

Leah Fleming’s path to a bronze medal:

  • 2020: 150 hours and 52 minutes
  • 2019: 184 hours and 39 minutes
  • 2018: 170 hours and 15 minutes
  • 2017: 75 hours and 59 minutes

Rounding out the seven volunteers who earned a Bronze Medal is Cynthia Smith, who has accumulated a total of 515 hours and 52 minutes. Smith has achieved this impressive number in only two years. In 2019, she recorded 243 hours and 43 minutes and this year she recorded 264 hours and 21 minutes. She is the 2020 USEA Area III volunteer of the year and is currently ranked third on the National USEA Volunteer Leaderboard.

Cynthia Smith’s path to a bronze medal:

  • 2020: 264 hours and 21 minutes
  • 2019: 243 hours and 43 minutes

**These seven volunteers will be receiving their bronze medal awards in the mail later this month.

Congratulations to all the volunteers! The USEA looks forward to seeing you next year.

About the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our sport, the unsung heroes, and the people who make it possible to keep the sport alive. In efforts to recognize the dedication, commitment, and hard work that volunteers put into eventing, USEA formed the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) in 2015. In 2017, an online management portal was designed for volunteers, organizers, and volunteer coordinators at EventingVolunteers.com (available as an app for iOS and Android).

Volunteer incentives include national and area recognition, year-end awards with ribbons, cash prizes, and trophies, a top ten USEA Volunteer leaderboard, and a Volunteer of the Year award which is given to the volunteer who tops the leaderboard by accumulating the most volunteer hours over the USEA competition year. Click here to learn more about the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program.

The USEA would like to thank Sunsprite Warmbloods for sponsoring the Volunteer Incentive Program.

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“I always thought I would have something profound to write. A eulogy that would encapsulate the impact you had on my life. And maybe those words will come. You taught me what a work ethic is, how to think in slow motion and how to just keep going. You laid the foundation for a career I dreamed of as a kid. Thank you will never be enough. I will miss you every day- rest easy my friend.”

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