After 30 years, Santo says 'it's right time to stop'

Published 7:00am 7 October 2021

After 30 years, Santo says 'it's right time to stop'
Words by Nick Crockford

For 30 years Santo Perna has volunteered at Redcliffe Little Athletics – officiating, supporting and marking out the track lines.

But the 73-year-old, who recently moved from Mango Hill , after 30 years, to Burpengary, has called time on his labour of love.

“I have told the committee this is my last year,” he said, “it is getting tiring.

“Maybe I’ll come back and help just on the committee, but not the line marking.

'Right time to stop'

“I love sport. I love the involvement and watching the kids perform, brilliantly some of them.

“Marking out lines can be very therapeutic, but I thought it was the right time to stop.”

Carefully and patiently, Perna has ensured the oval track, sprint lanes and field areas at Langdon Park, Margate have always been ready for young athletes.

In fact, such has been his dedication, one committee person suggested Langdon Park should be renamed Perna Park!

After 30 years, Santo says 'it's right time to stop'

Where it all began

At first, using oil, lines were done every four or five weeks during the six-month season. Today, with a special line marking liquid, around 3kms of lines are done 12-13 times over the same period.

It all began in 1991-92 when Perna and his wife Marney enrolled their children for Redcliffe Little Athletics (summer) and Margate FC (winter), which became Peninsula Power in 2000.

Perna immediately volunteered and in his first season at Little Athletics was an official on club nights, measuring distances and starting races.

Twelve months later he had a place on the committee and was marking the track lines.

Helping hand

By 2015, he was also marking out pitches at four football clubs – Peninsula Power, Virginia, Deception Bay and Redcliffe PCYC.

At Power, Perna also helped set up the goals and equipment on Saturdays and was a ground official - a role he has cut back since COVID.

Back in 1991, while a shift worker with BP, teachers at Southern Cross Catholic College needed ‘in-water’ help with the swimming program.

Perna volunteered and is now qualified and licenced through AUSTSWIM. He currently does two six-week blocks with Kippa-Ring, Woody Point and Scarborough School students.

After 30 years, Santo says 'it's right time to stop'

Sports award

Though a sports fan, Perna says he did not play football, did not take part in organised athletics and cannot swim very far.

Yet, he was still named Moreton Bay Regional Council’s Sports Person of the Year in 2009.

“It’s a thrill to see what five and six-year-old swimmers can do,” he said, “I never had such an opportunity. I can swim a length now!

“But my aim and the aim of teachers, coach and clubs is just to try and make sure kids are safe in the water.”

Tributes:

"Santo has such a sense of community, such patience and understanding when dealing with children. Has a way of calming people when they get all hot-headed" - Jenny Boardman, Arena Manager, Committee member 20 years

"Santo is kind, considerate, understanding and very thoughtful to other people" - Joanne McRoberts, Records Officer, Committee member 24 years

"His dedication and commitment to helping run the club has certainly stood out and appreciated by all parents with kids attending the club" - Rebecca Dine, Committee member

" Santo ... the name brings a smile to your face. Always first with a warm smile, engaging chat and to help, be it line marking, working bees, starting races, fixing things or fixing people. Langdon Oval should be renamed Perna Park" - Jodie Harlow, Committee member

"He is a fantastic role model not just with the athletes but with the parents too. He is understanding to our athletes needs and is always helping them" - John McRoberts, centre manager 14 years, Committee member 24 years

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