Grade 12 Jessica Vliegenthart would have been listless if her senior-year high school sports seasons were pilfered by a pandemic.
“It would have destroyed me,” said Vliegenthart, a Fulton and Company associate who played wheelchair basketball for Canada at the 2012 Paralympic Summer Games in London.
“I’m not exaggerating. I would have been in despair.”
So, when Will Blair, organizer of the Fulton Cup, the annual Kamloops and area basketball championship, approached the law firm to see if it would provide bursaries for the cancelled 2020 tournament, the decision was a lay-up.
“It seems like a little thing we can do to keep their spirits up, hopefully,” said Vliegenthart, a standout athlete in her Kam High days.
“I feel pretty heartbroken for those kids. Especially in Grade 12, when you’re looking at the future and trying to get scholarships.”
Twelve students from six Kamloops secondary schools will get $300 apiece.
Receiving bursaries are Austin Coyle and Jada Oregan of NorKam, Tavish Comrie and Pyper Ansley of South Kamloops, Gursevak Uppal and Sydney Schell from Sa-Hali, Jared Sucro and Anna Brouwer from St. Ann’s, Felix Dempsey and Jessica Orr of Valleyview and Ethan Gremaud and Taelar Hansen from Westsyde.
“Our coaches talked a lot this year about how much promise we had for this season, which we weren’t able to fulfill,” said Schell, who thanked Fulton for pitching in toward her University of Victoria tuition. “It was disappointing and hard to push through the practices when you knew you weren’t going to get the games and compete against other teams and win those banners.
“But you’ve just got to look at the bright side. I look back at all my memories through the five years. I was able to go to provincials in Grade 10. It was unfortunate we couldn’t do that this year, but that’s just the way it is, I guess.”
The athletes were chosen by athletics directors and coaches from their respective schools, with dedication to their teams, volunteerism and scholastic accomplishments taken into consideration.
“Kids are still coming out to train, they’re still working hard in their schools and doing well in their classes, doing volunteer things, and I know, personally, if I had lost out on my Grade 12 year of basketball, my life path might have been very different,” Blair said. “Being able to give bursaries to the kids and still give them a little help to go onto post-secondary was really important.”
Fulton and Company has handed out about $70,000 in bursaries since coming on as a sponsor more than 20 years ago.
Uppal has plans to attend Thompson Rivers University.
“It’s great because all the hard work I put in is paying off,” Uppal said. “It just sucks I couldn’t show it on the court this year.
“Every week we’d be told that next week we might have a chance to play games. Every week we were hopeful, but it never happened.”
Organizers and sponsors hope they can return to the Tournament Capital Centre hardcourt in 2021.
“They’ve lost the last 18 months of their teenage life,” Vliegenthart said. “There are many of us in the firm who played in the tournament growing up and there are lawyers and staff whose kids played in the tournament.
“We’re all really feeling for the kids who had their sports interrupted.”