The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League has selected 13 student-athletes and one game official who competed during the 2020-21 season to receive league bursaries, including three from the Doug Birks Division. Each bursary is valued at $1,000 and will be applied towards post secondary studies.
The recipients were chosen from a large field of applicants based on academic achievement, sportsmanship, hockey participation and/or quality of contribution as well as community participation and service.
Ty Banser- Summerland Steam
Banser, a graduate of Mount Boucherie Secondary, is a two-time recipient of a KIJHL bursary. Banser has played three seasons with the Steam and enrolled in the University of British Columbia-Okanagan’s Human Kinetics program in August 2019.
Experiencing his own challenges with injuries, including a diagnosis of Osteochondritis Dissecans, causing the tip of his right femur to break down and leave him in crutches for a year led to him pursuing a career in Human Kinetics. That year was difficult physically and mentally and recovery was complicated.
“My sports medicine physician was a catalyst and driving factor in my return to hockey the following year,” wrote Banser. “Navigating this challenge with such incredible support is what has inspired me to want to go into the medical field and help athletes overcome injuries and obstacles as I did.”
Banser is honoured and grateful to receive this bursary again.
Banser’s time in the KIJHL and with the Steam has played a major role in shaping him into the person he is today. His experiences have allowed me to develop into a more resilient, motivated, and stronger person. He has given back to the community by volunteering his time to the Summerland Terry Fox Run, bagging groceries at the West Kelowna Superstore, and the Trick-or-Treat or Food to Eat (Halloween Food Drive for West Kelowna Food Bank, among other things.
Cole Waldbillig – Summerland Steam
Waldbillig graduated from Mount Boucherie Secondary and has taken classes at UBCO towards a Bachelor of Science. He has played two seasons with the Steam.
“It’s an honour to be one of the recipients of the KIJHL bursary for it is a symbol of what I have accomplished not only at the rink, but also in the classroom,” he says. “It is rewarding to be recognized for my dedication in balancing both academics and sports, which consumes much of my time.”
Waldbillig is pursuing a career in optometry after doing a vision unit in a Grade 8 science class. After that he did a job shadowing at his mother’s work.
“The human eye has always been something that has interested me, and for someone who enjoys the classroom, it will be a great challenge to get to where I want to be,” says Waldbillig.
With the Steam, Waldbillig learned the importance of humility and leadership from his teammates. During his rookie season, he tried to soak in the experience and watch veterans, specifically what brought them and the team success. This year, he worked to implement what he learned and install the values of humility, resiliency, and commitment to younger players.
He has given his time to several community events or organizations such as the Summerland Legion Veteran’s Lunch, Summerland Tim Hortons Smile Cookie Drive-Thru, the West Kelowna Food Bank and Kelowna Gospel Mission doing dishwashing.
Sebastien Gracia – Osoyoos Coyotes
Gracia is a graduate of Penticton Secondary School and has been studying the sciences (Biology) at Okanagan College and has plans to attend UBC in Vancouver to continue his studies. Gracia has his sights set on a career in the medical field.
Gracia says receiving this bursary is an honour and that it shows how much the KIJHL values education as well as moving players onto the next level. In his brief time in the KIJHL, he’s thankful for the friendships that he made in Osoyoos.
Among the things he did to give back to the community was being a minor hockey volunteer coach, helping with coaching clinics, helped with sandbagging during floods, the 10,000 Tonight Food Drive, Toys for Tots to Teens and was a counselor with the Boys and Girls Club.
“I love getting involved with the community and helping people out and those events were awesome for that,” says Gracia. “Especially since those events took place during the Christmas season, it meant so much to me to be able to support people around Penticton.”
Jordon Woytas – Kelowna Chiefs
A graduate of George Elliott Secondary, he will attend Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, Michigan, where he will major in psychology.
Woytas says he’s honoured and appreciative to receive a bursary, and initially intended to study computer science, but shifted his focus.
“Growing up I have always had an interest in helping people deal with their challenges and advising them on their decisions, and as I got older and started learning and dealing with mental health, I decided that becoming a psychiatrist would be the best choice for me,” says Woytas.
During his time in the KIJHL, Woytas was named a playoff MVP, and received most sportsmanlike honours in back-to-back seasons. Playing in the league helped Woytas come out of his shell and develop a lot of self-confidence from meeting new people and growing new relationships with teammates and staff.
Jason Tansem, president of the Chiefs, wrote in a letter that Woytas is by far one of the most reliable and dedicated players he has had the pleasure to work with.
He gave back to his community in a variety of ways including contributing to a community clean up, reading to students at Black Mountain School, doing a clean up at a seniors home and delivering food with Ninja Now.