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  2010 Community Sport Winners

Laurie Bjorge

Most people start volunteering with sport clubs and organizations because of their kids-not Laurie.

She has volunteered with the Chilliwack Minor Football Association (CMFA) for 15 years, and she has never had a kid in the program. It wasn't her love of football that drew her either.

Chilliwack born and raised, Laurie vaguely remembers her brothers playing at Sardis secondary back when the school had a football program, but that didn't leave much of an impression.

So why did Laurie start dedicating so much time to local minor football? "I think it was for love," she said with a laugh, remembering the games she has taped in the sleet and freezing rain with the club's ancient and heavy video camera. "My football connection would be my husband Wayne."

When she met Wayne Bjorge in 1995, he was up to his neck in the flourishing local football association he'd helped found with two friends (Keith Currie and Don Wiens) in 1991.

He was coaching a midget-level team at the time, and Laurie was brought on board as team manager back when that position was just taking shape.The action on the field and the family atmosphere of the association soon drew her in.

"I just liked being part of the team," she said. "It was a lot of fun, and the kids were fun."

Laurie is currently the treasurer of the CMFA, but over the past 15 years she has held numerous positions including secretary, registrar and concession manager. Most years she takes on multiple roles.At the league level, she is the treasurer of the Valley Community Football League.

Besides all the official titles, she also works tirelessly behind the scenes at fundraisers and during game days, according to Wayne, who is now president of the CMFA.

"Laurie has given of herself like no other volunteer I have ever seen," he said.After being with the organization for 15 years, one thing that thrills Laurie is seeing players who went through the program in the early years come back to register their own kids.

"We see that more and more now," she said. "Their football experience was really good and positive, and they want their children to be a part of that. I really love to see that."

PeterPeter Lui

Peter's first curling experience was enough to turn anyone off. When he took up the sport in 1988 at age 38, the Oakville Curling Club, where he got his start, didn't offer beginner's clinics, but paired beginners up with experienced curlers instead.

"They were supposed to ease you in to the sport," said Lui. Unfortunately, however, Lui and his wife, Maggie, were matched with a pair of cocky young kids who rolled their eyes every time Lui slipped and bruised his knee on the ice.

Instead of giving up, though, he was determined to get good enough to beat them at their own game.

"I made up my mind," he said. "That was my motivation."

Three years later, when the Canadian Curling Association came out with a coaching program, Lui saw it as his chance to spare other beginners the same ordeal.

He earned his Level One certification in 1991 and Level Two in 1993 and has coached curling ever since.

He loves the game's blend of competitiveness and friendliness.

"We want to beat the opposition badly during the game," he said, "and then after the game, win or lose, we will have a drink with the opposition."While Lui still curls competitively, it's the kids in Chilliwack who really benefit from his love of the sport.

After only three years in the city, he's already spent one year as head coach and co-ordinator of the junior program at the Chilliwack Curling Club.

"The sport itself gives me a lot of joy," he said, "so I just want to do my share in putting back into the sport."

Besides running weekly sessions that involve about 60 kids, ages six and up, every Monday evening, Lui coaches the club's juvenile boys team and sits on the board as vice-president.

He also gives private lessons and donates the proceeds to the junior program to help cover travelling expenses for tournaments.

The most rewarding part for Lui is watching struggling students, young and old, improve after he gives them advice, an opportunity he never had as a beginner."When the student's happy, I'm happy," he said.

ToddTodd Morrison

Although Todd has dedicated a good part of his adult life to playing and coaching fastpitch, his first sports as a kid growing up in Victoria were soccer and lacrosse.He might never have taken to the ball diamond if his knees had held out, but when he was eight years old, a doctor told him he would have to quit lacrosse if he didn't want to get his knees drained every year.

His switch to baseball the following year wasn't a popular one with his soccer- and rugby-playing dad.

"He actually called it a wimpy sport," said Morrison with a laugh, "but after I started to play it, he became a really big fan."

Morrison's coaching career first started when he met his wife.

She was playing ball with a local women's team, the Valley Cats, and he was eager to pass on some of the know-how imparted to him by some of his great coaches.

"For me it's another way to be still in the game, involved with the game," he said.His time with the Valley Cats ended last year after 15 seasons and two provincial championship titles.

Another example of Morrison putting his high-level fastpitch experience to work for Chilliwack happened two years ago when he brought the Vancouver Grey Sox to Chilliwack to run a clinic for minor girls and boys.

For Morrison, it's all part of keeping the game he loves going in the city. When he moved here in 1990, softball was thriving with three divisions of men's ball, two church divisions and an 11-team women's league. Now there is only one men's team and five women's teams left, something Morrison chalks up to the growing profile of baseball in the area and the decision of the International Olympic Committee to drop softball from the Games.

"It's been such a good game," he said. "I just hope all the coaches that are putting in their time and helping develop the game are rewarded at the end of the day with the game still being alive."

KenKen St. Louis

Growing up in southwestern Ontario, near Windsor, Ken St. Louis has spent his fair share of time on skates.

"There was a lot of ice there in the winter time," he said with a laugh, remembering many hours spent skating on the open lakes back east.

He'd seen all kinds of skating on TV too, but it wasn't until 1992, when he was in his 30s, that he got his first live glimpse of short track.

"I was just blow away by it," he said. "I couldn't believe the speed in such close proximity."

St. Louis was a fan of fast-paced sports. When he was in Grade 10, he traded in all the mainstream sports he'd been playing like baseball, football, basketball and hockey to commit five years to competitive European handball -a sport introduced into his school by a Danish teacher who'd grown up with the sport in his home country.

St. Louis's introduction to short track came years later, after he had moved to Chilliwack and started a young family.

He came to the rink because a friend had asked him to help out as a timer at the North American championships being held here that year.

Impressed as he was by his first taste of the sport, he didn't get involved with the Sardis Fliers Speed Skating Club until he signed up his son, Kelsey, for their learn-to-skate program a few years later.

Kelsey took to it right away, according to St. Louis, and it wasn't long before his daughter Kayla was racing too.

St. Louis and his wife Kandyce, in the meantime, fell in love with the family atmosphere at the rink and soon dove into active roles with the club."It wasn't a drop-and-go sport where you drop the kids and leave," he said. "You stuck around and were a part of it."

Of the 15 years he's been with the club, St. Louis has spent close to 10 years as president and volunteered countless hours organizing the club's annual relay challenge, timing at most of the competitions in B.C. and working on equipment.Watching his own kids race at the provincial and national level gave St. Louis plenty of motivation to stay involved, but even now-after both Kelsey and Kayla have retired-he's still behind the scenes as bingo coordinator, keeping the club's main source of revenue flowing smoothly and the sport affordable so more kids can get involved.

"When I see those young kids go out there for the first time, I just feel happy watching," he said. "It's that good feeling you get when you figure there's a part of this that keeps happening because of your involvement."

GlenGlen Trojanoski

It probably wouldn't work for everyone, but Glen Trojanoski's secret to being a great baseball coach was being a lousy player.

"I really understand kids who can't play, so I can work with them," he said.Glen's playing career lasted all of two years as a peewee playing in his home town, Richmond.

He loved the sport, but it just didn't come easy.

"I was afraid of the ball," he said. "I couldn't catch."

He stopped playing after two years but stuck around the park to help out because his younger brother was starting on the team.

He stuck around long enough to be taken on as an assistant coach, and when the head coach had a heart attack a couple of years later, Glen took over the team, at age 16.

Looking back on 44 years of coaching since then, Glen laughs at how much times have changed.

"It was the '60s and I had long hair; I played in a band," he said. "There's absolutely no way as a parent today I would let that kid coach my kid, even though I was a good kid."

Glen coached peewee for about five more years before bringing one group of players all the way through the midget level and taking the provincial title to boot.Since moving to Chilliwack in 1990, he has become an integral part of the Chilliwack Minor Baseball Association, coaching at every level and serving on the board as president, league co-ordinator and director.But for Jim, the most rewarding work has always been honing players' skills at the park.

"I love to practice," he said. "That's the best part for me, doing drills, watching kids get better."

He was 20 years into his coaching career before he came up against what he calls his most difficult challenge-coaching his own son."It's hard to be a coach and a parent at the same time," he said. "If you're sitting in the stands and you're watching your son play, you die and live out there with him. But when you're coaching, you can't show that. You can't be the dad."He coached his son all the way from T-ball until he graduated from Midget AAA just last year, and with that chapter finished, Glen is taking his first season off in 44 years.

"It's not as bad as I thought," he said.

Gary Gary Wagner

As a one-time hippy and latter-day renaissance man, sports haven't been the be all and end all of Gary Wagner's life.

Ever since he started playing baseball at age eight, though, he's always enjoyed the satisfaction of a game well played, and he's ended up seeing plenty as a player, coach and official.

To him, sports bring to mind the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes:"As life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived."

It's a sentiment that rings as true for him today, playing with the Chilliwack Senior Slo-Pitch Association, as it did when he was a kid.

"It's the competition," he said, "getting a base hit, making the play. You're on third base and somebody cranks one down at you and you snap it up and throw him out at first-it's the joy of that."

Most of Gary's sports experiences have revolved around baseball, although he also spent about 15 years coaching community and school soccer when his kids were young, and he still referees the game in town.

But baseball and softball have trailed him most of his life, from Little League as a youngster to five years in the hippy Cosmic League in Vancouver in the 1970s (when he played for a team called Flex Morgan and the Mock Heroics) to 15 years in Chilliwack's church league.

He joined the Chilliwack Senior Slo-Pitch Association as a relative youngster at age 55, some years before retiring from a 30-year career as a local high school English, math and drama teacher.

When his kids were young and he was playing in the local church league, Gary often ended up coaching.

"Somebody has to do it, so why not me," he said.

That same attitude motivated him last year to organize and coach a team of Chilliwack Senior Slo-Pitch players for the B.C. Senior Games in Richmond.The team got pounded by players seven and eight years younger and more used to tournament play, but Wagner said the camaraderie and competition were worth the trip.

With some members of the Senior Slop-Pitch Association playing well into their 80s, Gary, at age 68, hopes to be making plays at the park for a good many years yet.

He's not thinking of giving up umpiring baseball and refereeing soccer any time soon either.

"I have this vision," he said, "of being 80 years old and hobbling out onto a U-12 field, and some kid will say, 'Oh, here comes the old guy.' And it'll be a positive comment. They'll be happy to see me, because I'll do a good job and I'll be fun to be with."

JimmieJimmie Willix

For Huskers equipment manager Jim Willix, the word "football" hasn't always referred to the pointy kind he works with now.

When he was a youngster in Belfast, Northern Ireland, a football was a soccer ball, and Jim knew how to use one.

In his late teens he played on reserve teams for Ards and Glentoran, two clubs in the country's professional league.

He had to give it up in his early 20s because his job demanded a lot of the travel, but when he moved to Canada in 1966, he brought his love of soccer with him.After 12 years in Toronto, Willix settled in Richmond with his family and began coaching there.

For some years he co-ordinated the 50 or so teams in what was then the West Richmond Soccer Club.

Counting other coaching stints in Aldergrove and Langley, Jim estimates his soccer coaching career in Canada spanned about 20 years.

Only one of those was spent coaching his son, Andrew before the youngster jumped ship for the gridiron at age 12.

But that's no sad story for Jim.

"I don't care what sport they play as long as they're playing sports," he said, "and I will help them to play that sport."

Jim was a fan during his son's high school years, and when Andrew joined the Richmond Raiders, Jim got involved on the board.

Andrew graduated from the junior program, but bad knees ended his career after a couple of seasons at Taft College in California and a brief time training with the Ottawa Roughriders.

Back in B.C., he was snapped up by former Huskers head coach Dave Haynes as a line coach.

By the time Willix decided to retire in Chilliwack, Andrew had been coaching with the team for two years, and Jim was soon a fixture at the games.

It wasn't long before he was asked to join the board.

He did-for a year-but says it just wasn't exactly his kind of work.

"I'd rather be up to my neck in bullets," he said.

In the bowels of Exhibition Stadium he found work more to his liking-organizing, repairing, adjusting and cleaning the team's equipment.

"This kind of stuff suits me," he said. "It's hands on. I'm part janitor, part equipment manager. Anything to do with the dressing room or the storage places, that's my domain."

When he started eight years ago, it was only to help out a bit, but a week into that season the regular equipment manager quit and handed him the keys."That was the start," he said.

Since then, from about a month before the season starts until about a month after it ends, Jim has volunteered about 30 hours a week managing the Huskers equipment and dressing room.

The team couldn't run without him, but Jim says the job is a godsend, giving him something rewarding to do in his retirement.

"You get a lot of satisfaction with these boys," he said. "You've got 50 boys, and you can see them develop. It's just satisfying."

GlennGlenn Wilson

When Glenn immigrated to Canada as a teenager in 1979, he landed in Whitehorse, Yukon.

It was a long way from the south of England where he grew up, but he remembers the first sight of soccer goalposts on a local field taking some of the sting out of the massive culture shock.

"All we'd ever heard about before that in Canada was ice hockey," he said.Until he immigrated at age 16, soccer had been a way of life.

"After school, almost every day we'd cross into the school soccer field with our friends," he said. "We'd throw a couple of sweaters down to make goal posts, and we'd play."

Luckily for Glenn, his family didn't last long in the Yukon, and his parents settled in Chilliwack while he moved on to Coquitlam, playing in local leagues there.The soccer was still fairly primitive then, according to Glenn, but the original North American Soccer League (NASL) and the Vancouver Whitecaps were still going strong.

He spent a short time training with the team's reserve/youth squad, but league regulations designated him as a European player, effectively ending his chances."If they only had room for six European players on their roster, they were going to make sure that they were professionals, not some 17-year-old kid," he said.Wilson's passion for playing was shouldered aside by the coaching bug in his 30s.

It started as a favour in 1991 when he took on a North Delta under-21 team that had lost its coach halfway through the season.

"I got a buzz from it right away," he said.

Almost two decades later, he's still hooked.

Glenn settled in Chilliwack with his young family in 1994 and there is rarely a day he is not on the field.

He coached three teams this year: a women's U-21 Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL) team, a metro level girls team and a U-21 men's team.He has also spent five years as an age group instructor for Chilliwack FC's youth academy and has co-ordinated the club's 1,100-player spring league for three years.

As owner of SoccerPlus, soccer is Glenn's day job too.

He thrives on being busy, he said, but what really keeps him going is working with enthusiastic kids who are willing to learn.

"I find that once you get on the soccer field, everything else just disappears," he said. "All the other concerns of the day disappear, and you're just working with a bunch of kids."

Over the years, two of those kids have been his own-Adam, 20, and Kirsten, 18-both of whom he'll be coaching again this year.

Wilson has seen a lot of changes in local soccer and as Chilliwack grows, he expects soccer to keep growing right along with it.

As it does, chances are he'll have a hand in it one way or another.

"It's in my blood I suppose you could say," he said. "I can't imagine not doing it."


Spirit of Chilliwack soon to be Chilliwack Active for Life
www.spiritofchilliwack.ca soon to be www.chilliwackactiveforlife.ca
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