The 100 Mile House Wranglers have their own team grandma in Diane Atkins, known affectionately as ‘G-Ma’.
It’s a role she excitedly embraced when the Wranglers first came to 100 Mile House in 2014. The team was in need of billet homes and Atkins decided to open up her home to the team.
“I wasn’t working and I could spend all my time with them because a lot of these kids, it’s their first year away from home,” Atkins, 84, said. “I just enjoyed looking after them. I let them cry on my shoulder when they’re not feeling good and I was there all the time for them.”
Atkins was recognized Saturday for her volunteer work when was awarded South Cariboo Citizen of the Year – she shared the honour with Forest Grove’s Sylvia Griffith – at 100 Mile House’s Community Appreciation Day in Centennial Park.
“I actually didn’t think I’d be even close,” Atkins chuckled. “This will go right up on my wall of fame.”
Atkins said she decided to billet because she wanted to use the four spare bedrooms in her 100 Mile home. Plus she was looking for some company, as she was feeling lonely after her husband Lorne died.
It was shortly after she started bringing players into her home that she earned her nickname. Her home quickly became a gathering place for the team to hang out and one night, a player asked Atkins what they should call her.
“I said ‘don’t call me Mrs. Atkins. You can call me Diane or whatever you like’ and he said ‘how about G-Ma’ and you know, that stuck,” Atkins said. “I don’t think anyone knows my real name at the rink, it’s all G-Ma.”
The situation has proved beneficial for both sides. Whenever she has billets, Atkins cooks their meals, does their laundry, cleans their rooms and makes their beds, despite them saying she is “foolish to be doing all this.” In exchange, the players shovel the driveway and do other physical labour around the house when she needs a hand.
Becoming the team grandmother also means Atkins keeps a close eye on her adopted grandsons. She said while some of them think they “get away with murder,” they can’t get away with too much under her roof.
For instance, Atkins said, she has been consistently amused by the Wranglers’ efforts to bring girls home. After she caught them a few times they “smartened up,” she said, especially after she returned a few of the girls’ articles of clothing in person.
Atkins hasn’t just limited herself to housing the Wranglers. During the 2017 wildfires, she opened her home up to evacuees before 100 Mile House was evacuated, while she also billeted firefighters last summer.
Atkins said it’s a change from the Wranglers as they tend to be older and are gone for most of the day.
She is already billeting three firefighters this spring and said so far it’s been enjoyable.
“They don’t try to get away with too much because they’re working,” she said. “The hockey players, they’re here for a good time.”
Still, the Wranglers hold a special place in their G-Ma’s heart. Atkins said players she billeted regularly call her on her birthday to wish her well and always come visit when they pass through town.
She intends to keep on opening up her home to future Wranglers players but may have to stop temporarily as she has a hip operation coming up this fall.
“They know I’m there to look after them and they’re grandkids to me, all of them, even these firefighters, because my own grandchildren are older than they are. I’ve had 18 Wranglers, six firefighters, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.”