The Invictus Games is a family affair for Leslie MacKinlay, who attended the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 with her husband and daughter and felt that the experience was a “privilege”.
Leslie, a Canadian native, had her first experience with the Invictus Games at Toronto 2017, when she volunteered and assisted with the running of the Wheelchair Tennis and Archery events.
She was selected to volunteer at the sixth Invictus Games of Düsseldorf 2023 and wanted a different role, she wanted to interact directly with the competitors and make deeper personal connections with the people she was helping.
Her personal highlights were hard to condense down as Leslie felt that every day, she spent with the competitors from over 20 nations was “life-changing”.
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to Düsseldorf to participate once again, this time in Sport.”
Among her most cherished Invictus memories was when she got to help place the flags for the competitors around their shoulders for the medal ceremony and seeing them celebrate together.
“It was a shared celebration, geographies melted away and they were all of one Invictus team.”
Leslie also got to witness the first Invictus medals for Team Israel, an emotional haka from Team New Zealand, and be a part of celebrating the incredible resilience of Team Ukraine, who attended their second Invictus Games since the Russian invasion of their country.
She was able to connect with numerous people throughout her time at the Invictus Games, whether it be a mother cheering on her son from the sidelines or a family with two small boys on the train to the venue, Leslie greeted everyone with enthusiasm and warmth.
“Chatting on the train home one evening with a Canadian couple. He had dismantled explosives in Afghanistan and was now an athletic coach for the team. The obvious devotion, sense of service and commitment were humbling and inspiring.”
While Leslie was already familiar with volunteering at the Invictus Games from her time at Toronto 2017, Düsseldorf 2023 was extra special to her as she was sharing it with her daughter and husband.
“This Games, I had the privilege of sharing with my daughter Lauren, a new volunteer, and my husband, a daily attendee.”
A standout memory for Leslie was seeing her husband shed tears at the Opening Ceremony and having her daughter turn to her and say that society needs to be more accommodating of people with impairments.
“The Invictus community is all about moving forward. The Invictus Games gives these worthy men and women, as well as their families a new life, a new challenge and an accepting community.
“To be a volunteer witnessing this and being able to help even a little has been one of the great privileges of my life.”