UBC Okanagan fundraiser crucial for future Canadian champions

The UBC Okanagan Heat women's volleyball team won the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship last Saturday, and the Heat men's basketball team heads to Prince George this week to compete for Canadian gold of their own.

It is the kind of success athletics director Rob Johnson is thrilled to see, and determined to see continue -- but he says this requires a sustained and significant financial aid program for student-athletes.

"We're building a strong program at UBC Okanagan," says Johnson. "The key to a successful program is hiring the right coaches and providing them with the tools they need to recruit top student athletes. Those tools include an institution with an outstanding academic reputation, great facilities, and these days more than ever, reasonable amounts of student athlete financial assistance. We have the first two and are working hard to provide the third.”

The upcoming Valley First UBC Okanagan Athletics Scholarship Breakfast is the most effective method of donating to athletics, Johnson says, because the university provides a matching gift for every ticket/table purchased.

Since its inception three years ago, the Athletics Scholarship Breakfast has raised more than $210,000 for the scholarship endowment. Johnson says tickets -- $100 each or a table of 10 for $1,000 -- are still available for this year's event at the Coast Capri Hotel on Friday, April 3. Keynote speakers will be Olympic rowing medalists Scott Frandsen, Ben Rutlege and Jake Wetzel.

"There's no better way to make a difference in a student-athlete's playing career than to give them the ability to train and compete as hard as they can," says Johnson. "We know from our current student-athletes just how important every bit of assistance is from that first year all the way through their entire varsity athletics career. To be competitive at this level requires training, practice and/or competition six days a week during the school year. That makes part-time work impossible."

Kailey Buller, a second-year outside hitter with the new national volleyball champions, was named the player of the game in Saturday's gold-medal match against Edmonton's MacEwan College Griffins. She says financial assistance made the beginning of her university career as a student-athlete much less stressful than it might have been.

"It allows me to focus entirely on academics and athletics rather than balancing a full course load, training, and working a part-time job," says Buller. "It definitely had an impact on deciding which university would be best for me."

Complete information about the April 3 fundraiser is online at www.ubc.ca/okanagan/athletics or call Claire Paterson at 250-807-8600 (athletics.scholarships@ubc.ca).

Follow the men's basketball team as the Heat challenge for the CCAA national championships this Friday through Sunday -- games will be streamed live on the web from the University of Northern British Columbia at www.unbc.ca/nationals.

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