KIJHL announces Doug Birks Division bursary recipients


WEST KELOWNA – 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.

Brendan Vulcano –  Revelstoke Grizzlies

The Nelson, B.C. native is a graduate of George Elliot Secondary and will attend the University of Jamestown in North Dakota to play for the Jimmies. 

“It means a lot that I was recognized for this. It shows that all the hard work I have put in through my years of hockey has paid off,” says Vulcano. “I think it also showed how my parents always told me to work hard, have a good attitude and to be grateful for everything, and to always have fun while doing it.”

Vulcano says his time in the league shaped him into more of a true leader on and off the ice. 

“Knowing that there is now a community that knows who you are, sets very high standards,” he says. “It has also driven me to be the best player on the ice every shift with the way the league has grown in terms of talent level and competitiveness, because of how many players are determined to get to the next level.”

Vulcano has volunteered in many ways, including with the Revelstoke Rotary Club tent set up, Revelstoke Food Drive, Lake Country Boys and Girls Club, the Kelowna Homeless Shelter and the One Life One Chance Mexico House Build. That experience helped him learn to be more appreciative of everything that he has, especially from seeing the things he saw while building houses in Mexico. 

“I realized you don’t always need the big, fancy things in life to be happy,” he says. “The amount of joy and happiness I could see in the faces of the people while giving back to them made me feel very grateful for everything I have in my life.”

Philippe Lessard – Sicamous Eagles

The Edmonton, Alta. native graduated from Ecole Maurice-Lavaliee and has taken some courses through Athabasca University. He will attend the University of Jamestown to study biology for pre-medicine, while playing for the Jimmies.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to go to university and further my education and this bursary will be a big help in achieving my goals,” says Lessard. “I also appreciate the recognition from the league. I’ve played two years in the KIJHL and I feel like the league makes a great effort rewarding the players for their hard work and achievements.”

While in the KIJHL, Lessard enjoyed meeting people while he was in Beaver Valley and Sicamous. His teammates have become some of his closest friends.

“Playing in the KIJHL helped me mature and grow up,” says Lessard, named the Beaver Valley Nitehawks’ most sportsmanlike player in 2019-20. “Having the experience of living away from home and getting mentored by coaches and other players that have gone through it before made me a better person overall.”

Among the initiatives that Lessard volunteered his time to was being Santa at the Edmonton Food Bank, serving meals and helping with clean up at a community breakfast and the Salvation Army.

“By being part of the team and helping out in the communities, it really opened my eyes to the importance of giving back,” he says. “I also saw the importance of being involved in the communities you are part of, building a good connection with the people around you by always offering your help and time. I became more aware of how important it is for members of the communities to stick together and be there for one another.”

Noah DeSouza – Revelstoke Grizzlies

DeSouza graduated from George Elliot Secondary and will attend the University of B.C.-Okanagan to pursue a career in Human Kinetics as an orthopedic specialist.

“It feels great. Just knowing that with my application, and people reading it, and seeing what I want to do with my future plans, it means a lot knowing that I have support there,” says DeSouza, who spent three seasons with the Grizzlies. “I’ve had great people to help me with it like Ryan (Parent, the Grizzlies GM-coach) and the whole organization. I’m just really excited I got it.”

While with the Grizzlies, DeSouza  was named team MVP and earned the Doug Birks Top Goaltender Award. 

He gave back to Revelstoke by volunteering his time to the Rotary Club, the Revelstoke Legion, minor hockey as well as his Noah DeSouza Christmas Foundation. DeSouza loved his time in the league and Revelstoke. The community outreach got him out of his comfort zone to help people and he enjoyed helping minor hockey kids improve their skills.

The Erie, Col., native started his own foundation with his family when he became ill with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three. The mission of his foundation is to provide Christmas Eve dinner to patients, families and faculty and hospital staff at Children’s Hospital Colorado. The foundation was established in 2003.

“That’s another fulfilling thing that I have in my life, I’m very proud of it,” says DeSouza, who battled his illness for nearly a year. “My family decided to give back and it grew into something big.”