The ice is twice as nice for UW-Green Bay’s Lynn Niemi

When University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Disabilities Services Coordinator Lynn Niemi (second from left in the top row) first started volunteering for the Green Bay Area Youth Hockey Association (GBAYHA) in 2007, she was simply trying to be more involved in the community, following in the footsteps of her parents.

“My younger brother had Duchene Muscular Dystrophy,” Niemi said. “My parents have volunteered with the Muscular Dystrophy Association since 1980 by working telethons, organizing softball games, golf outings and much more.”

In three short years, Niemi has literally thrown herself into her role as volunteer extraordinaire — going from GBAYHA board member and manager of her 13-year old twin daughters’ hockey team — to co-director of a national tournament that is expected to bring $1.5 million to the area’s economy. (Her daughters flank her in the photo.)

“Girls hockey is a family affair,” Niemi said. “My husband has been an assistant coach for the girls program, and I have been team manager since becoming a board member.”

When the USA Hockey Nationals, April 7-11, comes to the Cornerstone Community Ice Center, in De Pere, Niemi will see to it that her extended family — 48 teams from around the United States — learn what Northeastern Wisconsin hospitality is all about. The two-weekend event includes the USA Women’s Nationals, which were held March 26-28.

With her co-director title came the responsibility to establish host teams at U12, U14, U16, U19 levels and organizing tryouts; as well as collecting fees for the teams, ordering jerseys and warm-ups, helping managers and coaches set up ice time with the rink manager. She and her co-director established tournament chairs to help with volunteers, hospitality, apparel, etc., and worked with the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau to set up hotels. All that remains is working diligently to fill the volunteer schedule and making sure the tournament has enough food to feed the officials, refs and volunteers during the tournaments. Niemi will take more than 40 hours of vacation to cover both tournaments.

“The most time I have spent volunteering for girls hockey has been since I volunteered to be the co-tournament director,” Niemi said. “Last year we went to the 2009 USA Hockey Girls Nationals just to prepare for this year.” Note-taking was a big part of that trip, making sure she knew the rules to keep her own teams from being disqualified and get competitive games.

Despite the hard work and numerous hours Niemi puts into volunteering, she finds joy in what she does.

“The two things I enjoy the most about volunteering are helping the girls program grow and the friendships that are developed by all,” Niemi said. “The friends our family gains are year-long, not just seasonal.”

In her job at the University, Niemi says she is responsible for making sure the campus offers a safe, compliant place for students with documented disabilities. On a day-to-day basis, Niemi makes sure students with disabilities have equal access to academic programs and academic facilities. She has been coordinator of Disabilities Services at UW-Green Bay since 1998.

Story by PJ Mee, Marketing and Communication student intern
Photo by Adam Koenig, Marketing and Commuication student photographer

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