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'I come because of this': Toronto CFL fan hits 10th year as Grey Cup festival volunteer

Earl Mervin is a Canadian Football League (CFL) fan from Toronto who came for the Grey Cup in Regina. But for him, it was not just about the game.

Earl Mervin is a Canadian Football League (CFL) fan from Toronto who came for the Grey Cup in Regina. But for him, it was not just about the game.

He has attended the last 12 festivals as a fan and more prior to that as a kid. But when the 100th Grey Cup was in his hometown, he made the decision to volunteer and has done so ever since.

“It’s just pure fun,” said Mervin. “I came for a football game, but this is where I meet the people.”

From joking with fans about who will win the championship game to finding a lost league commissioner on a street in Vancouver, Mervin has stories only a select few people familiar with the league can tell.

“In Toronto, I helped set up the [sky] dome,” he remembered. “We walked onto the field, laid on the emblem at centre-field and hung from the goal posts.

“In my role as a volunteer, I’ve been able to do things no other people have been able to do.”

He recalled the 2018 CFL Awards, when then-Calgary Stampeder QB Bo Levi Mitchel won most outstanding player.

“He brought his daughter and she was restless. Grandma brought her out and she needed a break, so I said if I could watch her for a moment. Every mother just needs five minutes of alone time.”

At the end of the night, Mitchel’s daughter introduced them.

“On Thursday at [this year’s] awards, I asked him, ‘how his daughter was. I watched her in 2018.’ And he was very thankful.”

This year, his newest memory was a signature on his volunteer uniform from Rider legend George Reed.

“George is the CFL. I remember him as a kid beating everybody.”

Over 1,100 people gave up their free time, vacation days and warmth to help for at least one day at the 109th Grey Cup Festival.

They scanned tickets, gave directions, braved the cold to run activities, games, the tubeslide and many more things behind the scenes.

All of this was done with the expectation of nothing in return.

However, when someone did give a little recognition, it went a long way.

“The thank-yous mean a lot,” said one volunteer.

“When you’re out there and you’re trying to help and they take the time to smile or pat you on the back or shake your hand, it means everything,” said another. “You know you’re doing a great job.”

“It’s just awesome to see,” said Mike Wong. “Especially after COVID-19 cancelled the event a couple years ago.”

“You see the kids come up after they finish an activity with smiles on their faces,” said Mervin. “That means a lot because if you can get the kids involved, you have a fan for life.”

Volunteer co-chairs Bernadette McIntyre and Hiedi Pearson said those who gave their time embodied the festival’s slogan, ‘Bring it to the Heartland.’

“The volunteers are the heartbeat,” said Pearson. “They have kept this festival running from the start right down to the finish line.”

“Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you,” said McIntyre. “We couldn’t do it without you.”

As for Mervin, he said he’ll be back.

“As long as I’m willing and able, yes,” he said.

“I come out because of this. That’s what the Grey Cup is all about.”

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