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Digby volunteer has close encounter with Prince Harry at Invictus Games

A frame from the video showing Jill Balser’s reaction as Prince Harry stands right in front of her as he talks to the Team U.S.A. captain and his service dog.
A frame from the video showing Jill Balser’s reaction as Prince Harry stands right in front of her as he talks to the Team U.S.A. captain and his service dog.

TORONTO, ON – Jill Balser had a close encounter with Prince Harry while volunteering at the Invictus Games this September in Toronto.

She was sitting in the call room section, ready to call athletes and send them to their respective events, when Harry walked by and began chatting with the Team U.S.A. captain and his service dog.

The whole thing was caught on video, tweeted out by the Kensington Palace Twitter account. Putting it mildly, Balser was ecstatic.

“The full video, I’m in the background, just staring, and laughing at who knows what,” she says.

 

Seeing Prince Harry in action

The thought of maybe getting to meet the prince was a deciding factor for Balser when she applied to volunteer.

After applying around one year ago, Balser found out she’d been selected to volunteer several months ago.

She then attended a summit in Toronto in August, where she learned more about the games and received training for the games, which area a parasport event for wounded, injured or sick service people.

Jill Balser at the Invictus Games, where her dream of seeing Prince Harry came true. “It was so nice to see him in general. I’ve pretty much been waiting my whole life for that moment!” she said.

She arrived at the games, which ran September 23 to 30 in Toronto and included around 1600 volunteers and 550 athletes.

Balser volunteered from the 23 to the 27 as part of the Sports Crew, getting athletes situated and ready for their respective events – three days at the athletics events and one at cycling.

Balser actually saw Prince Harry twice, the second time as she was running by a building, and was struck each time by how natural he was.

“He was always talking to people in a normal way, treating them like normal people, and acting normal himself. It was so nice to see him like that,” she said.

“It was so nice to see him in general. I’ve pretty much been waiting my whole life for that moment!”

 

Supporting service men and women

Balser is a self-proclaimed sports enthusiast, and says this was her primary motivation in volunteering at the Invictus Games.

While she had a general appreciation for what service men and women go through when they enter the forces, she gained a whole new understanding for it at the games.

The games were inspirational for Balser, and gave her a whole new respect for service men and women. “You can’t get any better than knowing its working to end stigma around physical and mental health,” she said.

“The experience was inspirational in ways I couldn’t have imagined,” says Balser.

“It allowed me to really respect what these people do, the risks they take, and to realize we all need to support that.”

She heard Prince Harry speak at the opening ceremonies about using his platform to create an event service men and women could take hold of and change their lives.

The event is for competitors with visible and invisible injuries, like PTSD. While team selection works differently for each country, Canada chooses its athletes based on who they feel may benefit the most from participating.

Balser hopes this inspires other local people, from Digby and surrounding areas, who may wish to take part.

The next games will be held in Sydney, Australia in 2018, and Balser is already looking at applying yet again.

“You can’t get any better than knowing its working to end stigma around physical and mental health,” she says.

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