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2015 Awards

Year 18 – Tuesday May 17, 2016

Edelweiss Banquet Hall, Kitchener



Mandy Bujold – Boxing


Mandy Bujold (born July 25, 1987) is a Canadian amateur boxer, whose career was launched following a successful 2006 when she claimed the Canadian National Championship and Boxer of the Year titles. Weighing in at 51 kg (112 lbs.), she has made her way as a Fly Weight Champion, with a trail of titles and victories following her. Included amongst her many achievements are 10 Canadian National Championships, 3 Continental Championships, a Gold medal at the first Pan-American Games and a Bronze medal at the first Commonwealth Games that included women’s boxing.


Most recently during the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games Mandy successfully defended her title and became the only female boxer in history to win 2 Pan American Games titles. Mandy’s dedication and discipline have made her a great competitor and ambassador for the sport. She was an ambassador for the Pan-American Games 2015 (Toronto, Canada) as well has qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games 2016 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).


Following high school graduation from Forest Heights Collegiate (Kitchener, Ontario), Mandy continued training while she went on to complete a General Business program at Conestoga College (Kitchener, Ontario) in 2007. In 2010, Mandy enrolled at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario), where she is diligently working part-time to complete an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts.


Mandy is also a fully certified Level 2 NCCP Coach and working towards her Level 3. She has also completed a Level 3 Referee/Judge for Boxing Canada. In addition to her training and studies, community involvement is also very important to Mandy so she gives back through teaching recreational classes, mentoring aspiring athletes through various youth sports programs and continuous involvement with many local charities including the Ronald McDonald House Toronto and Nutrition for Learning.


Mandy is now focusing on her training for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.


Mandy will compete in several international events including the World Championships on her journey towards her ultimate goal of fighting for GOLD at the Olympic Games in 2016.

Mandy Bujold

Other Nominees:


Ryan Benesch – Lacrosse


Ryan Benesch is a Canadian professional lacrosse player playing in the National Lacrosse League for the Buffalo Bandits in 2015. He has previously played for the Minnesota Swarm, Edmonton Rush and Toronto Rock.


He is known as “The Bullet” and had an outstanding 2015 as forward for the Buffalo Bandits with 55 goals, 58 assists and an overall total points of 113.
These results earned him the National Lacrosse League (NLL) Goal Scoring Title and third place finish in the scoring race.


Ryan tied for the league first with four game-winning goals and tied for second with four shorthanded goals while his .229 shooting percentage was ninth among all players with 10-plus goals.


Ryan was recognized as one of three Finalists for the Most Valuable Player Award for the 2015 National Lacrosse League. His impact on the Buffalo Bandits is palpable. Much like the legendary John Tavares, who had had a hand in over 40% of Buffalo’s all-time goals, Benesch has factored in on more than 50% of the team’s goals in 2015.


Troy Cordingley, Head Coach of Bandits, said of Benesch “Ryan is a very smart player and we need him to continue to do what he’s doing. He’s on fire, he’s playing great for us, he’s got some of the best hands in the league, his shot is dead on and I think he’s pretty happy with his stick right now”.


Along with his Buffalo Bandits teammate, Ryan was instrumental in securing a Gold Medal for Team Canada at the World Indoor Championship. This was one of many 2015 highlights in a long standing and illustrious career.

Ryan Benesch

Alec Elliot – Swimming


Alec Elliot is a Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawk who represented Canada at the IPC World Championships in Scotland and at the Para Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015. At the IPC World Championships he captured top ten placements in all of his six events and won an unprecedented 5 Bronze Medals at the Para Pan Am Games.


Alec Elliot, originally from Kitchener, Ont., broke more than a couple of Canadian Para Swimming records this year and is spending his post-high school grad summer racing in prep for his ultimate goal, the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Alec has been swimming for the Region of Waterloo Swim Club since a child and this year trained beside the Golden Hawks. It was being so close to this team that made him decide to enroll in Laurier as a freshman in September 2015. “It was important to me to join these guys as a teammate,” said Elliot about Laurier swimming. “They supported me this year and I missed them a lot when the University year was done. I want to be a part of this team.”
Alec was born with a rare condition called syndactyly, which limits the use of his hands and feet. Syndactyly affects only one in about 2,500 people; it is even rarer in both hands and both feet. Elliot is classified as a para swimmer, but his speed and times kept him a highly recruited athlete this year due to his speed and natural feel for the water.


“Alec brings so much professionalism and respect to our team. We are very proud to have him as an addition. He also adds great depth and speed”. (Coach Mike Thompson)


Like many Athletes, Alec has dedicated countless hours and swimming numerous kilometres to take off the seconds, or even hundredths of a second that separate the top-level swimmers.

Alec Elliot

Mike Hoffman – Ice Hockey


Michael Hoffman is a Canadian professional ice hockey player currently playing for the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League.


Hoffman started his junior hockey career with the Kitchener Dutchmen of the Mid-Western Junior Hockey League in 2006–07, earning a rookie of the year nomination. At the end of the 2006–07 season, the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League called him up for two games in the season, and four in the playoffs. At the start of the 2007–08 season, he failed to make the Rangers, which had cut him; no OHL team picked him up. He then transferred to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he would play until 2010.


He first joined the Gatineau Olympiques but was released after 19 games. Hoffman returned to Drummondville and during the 2008-09 season, he achieved prominence by scoring 52 goals in 62 games with the Voltigeurs, who came from last in the 2007-08 season to win the 2009 QMJHL championship title and a berth in the Memorial Cup. This proved a turning point in Mike’s career, he finished the playoffs with 21 goals in 19 games and caught the attention of the Ottawa Senators. He was selected by the Senators 130th overall and attended the Senator’s development camp, played in a pre-season game against Montreal Canadiens but was once again designated for assignment and returned to the QMJHL.


In July 2010, Hoffman signed an entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators and was assigned to the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. During this time, he was a member of the 2011 Calder Cup winning team.


Mike’s tenacity and determination paid off ~ he was leading scorer for Binghamton during the 2011-12 season and was called up to Ottawa, making his NHL debut December 2011.


Returning to Binghamton Senators during 2012-2014, he was again recalled to Ottawa December 2013, after recording 26 points in 21 games, the second-highest point total in the AHL at the time.


In 2014-15, Hoffman played the whole season in Ottawa and his 27 goals led the team. He was selected to play in the NHL All-Star weekend and led all NHL rookies in goals.


Mike was ranked 4th among rookies with 48 points and ranked 2nd among NHL rookies with a +16 goals for / against average.


He has proven himself. In spades. Last season he tallied 27 goals – this season, he has 23 goals in 30 fewer games. His even-strength points-per-60 has fallen from 2.49 to 2.24, that still has him 19th in the league among players with at least 200 minutes played.


Hoffman is unique – almost nobody gets their first NHL point at age 24 and goes on to produce at the rate Hoffman has. He is a skilled left wing with a great shot, the best on the team. When he skates full tilt, he is the fastest on the team.


In 2015, Hoffman, a rookie was Ottawa’s most productive forward and far and away the team’s best left wing. Known as a skilled, speedy sniper!

Mike Hofman

Brandon Horn – Fastball


For Brandon Horn, Fast Pitch Softball is in his blood! When he and his siblings began playing at an early age, he had the support of his parents who encouraged and cheered for him wherever his minor ball team went. Spurred on by competitive teammates, and coached by some of the finest mentors that the Waterloo Minor Softball Association had to offer, Brandon developed his craft year after year.


At the age of 27, Brandon Horn was part of the Canadian Men’s National Team competing at the 2012 Pan American Championships where Canada won the Gold Medal. At the 2013 International Softball Federation (ISF) Men’s World Softball Championship, Horn led the team with a .467 battering average as Canada finished fifth.


Domestically, Horn was named Most Valuable Player of the qualifying round at the 2008 Junior Men’s Canadian Championship. He later earned All-Star second baseman honours at the 2013 Senior Men’s Canadian Championship as a member of the Scarborough Force who won Silver.
He has played internationally participating in World Championships in Medellin, Columbia, Auckland, New Zealand, Parana, Argentina, and South Bend, Indiana.


2015 was a banner year for Brandon Horn and is considered one of the World’s top infielders.


Fastball is a competitive, international sport that you will not see at the Olympic stage, however Fastball was strong and alive at the 2015 Pan Am Games, showcasing many of the world’s top national teams and athletes. Canada earned a Gold Medal and Brandon Horn was instrumental and key to their success. During the six games that Horn played he recorded an average of .294 at bats, going 5 for 17. Gold at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, Canada confirmed Brandon Horn as one of Canada’s greatest Athletes.

Brandon Horn

Jamal Murray – Basketball


Jamal Murray started playing basketball when he was three years old. He could play basketball “for hours” and played in a league for ten-year-old when was six. By the age of 12, he began playing pickup games against top high school and college players. Murray attended Grand River Collegiate Institute and later transferred to Orangeville Prep, where his father served as an assistant coach.


2015 proved to be a break out year for Jamal. At the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit, he scored a game high 30 points and was named Most Valuable Player at both the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit and BioSteel All-Canadian Basketball Game, which highlights top high school players in Canada.


In June 2015, Murray committed to the University of Kentucky Wildcats. His Freshman year was outstanding ~ he is the only Kentucky player to have scored over 30 points in more than one game during a freshman season and currently tied (Terrence Jones) for most points in a game by a UK freshman (35). Jamal was featured on the Midseason Top 25 list for the John R. Wooden Award (Most Outstanding NCAA College Basketball Players) and was also named to the 35-man midseason watchlist for the Naismith Trophy (College Player of the Year).


Jamal Murray represented Canada at the 2015 Pan Am Games (Silver Medal) and stole the show. As the second-youngest player in the entire Pan Am Games field, Murray averaged 16.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists, highlighted by a semifinal win over Team USA in which he scored all 22 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime.


All of a sudden, Murray is the talk of the town ~ College basketball analysts heaped praise after each performance and prophesized his success as a possible first round draft pick in the National Basketball League. Still, Murray remains even keeled, humble and hungry, thanks to the two things at the centre of his life: his family and basketball.

Jamal Murray

Sarah Pavan – Volleyball


Sarah Pavan, from Kitchener, Ontario, is a beach volleyball player representing Canada on the FIVB World Tour. Sarah has been playing beach volleyball since 2013, and she and her partner, Heather Bansley, are currently the 4th-ranked duo in the world, with their sights set on a medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. In 2015, the pair has earned two silver medals and two bronze medals on the World Tour, making them the 2nd-ranked team in the Olympic qualifying race.


In addition to playing beach volleyball, Sarah has been playing indoor volleyball since she was 10 years old, becoming the youngest woman ever to represent Canada at the senior level, at 16. She attended the University of Nebraska, where her team won the NCAA Championship in 2006. The four-time First-Team All-American was named the AVCA National Player of the Year in 2006, and was the Honda Broderick Cup Winner for the top female athlete in the NCAA in 2007. She graduated with a degree in Biochemistry.


Since college, Sarah has been playing volleyball professionally all over the world, calling Italy, Brazil, Korea, and China home at different times. In 2013, she began splitting her time between her professional indoor seasons and her beach volleyball seasons on the World Tour. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys reading, playing the piano, taking online classes, being active outdoors, and cooking with her husband.

Sarah Pavan

Leah Robinson – Athletics/Track


At age 14, Leah Robinson was the youngest member of the Canadian team at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. She finished 10th in the 200m and 11th in the 100m. Thrilled to be representing her country again in London at the 2012 Paralympic Games, Robinson notched another top-10 finish. Robinson, who has cerebral palsy, first heard about para-athletics at an awards banquet when she was 11 years old. She made the national team in 2008 and early in her career became the Canadian record holder in the 100m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m. In 2012, Robinson broke her own Canadian record for the T37 400m in qualifying for the Paralympic Team.


Leah Robinson continued her winning ways in 2014 she won Gold at the Canadian National Champions in the T37 200m and 400m. 2014 proved to be a year of transition and change. Leah become a full time student at University of Guelph and commenced training with Jason Kerr from Speed River Running Club.


In 2015 significant gains were had in the T37 400m ~ Ontario Para-Athletics Champions, Canadian Track and Field Championship, Twilight Meet, Ottawa Meet resulted in improved times of 1:15:04, 1:12.11, 1:11.71 and 1:11.51 respectively.


These results lead to a Season’s Best, Personal Best, Canadian Record and Americas Record at the Para Pan Games with a Bronze Medal in the T200m and Gold Medal in the T400m.


Leah Robinson’s performance was recognized by Athletics Ontario for “Outstanding Female Track Performance” in Para-Athletics.


Following success at the Pan Para Games, Leah participated in the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar resulting in a 6th place finish in the 400m T37 final, bringing her World ranking to 11th with a time of 1:10.75.


Leah Robinson continued to make history in 2015 – she competed, first time in CIS history, in the Ambulatory component of the championship and won a Gold Medal in the Women’s 60m Dash with a time of 9.71.
2015 Summary ~ History in the making and Rio 2016 is in sight!

Leah Robinson

Dhane Smith – Lacrosse


Dhane Smith is a professional lacrosse player for the Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) and the Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association.


Dhane began his career in 2009 playing and training with the Kitchener-Waterloo Braves of the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League, where he won the Green Gail Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2012. With this success he moved up to the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks of Major Series Lacrosse and transferred to the Shamrocks during the 2014 season.
First time entry into the NLL Draft, Smith was selected fifth overall by the Buffalo Bandits in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft. He began his career as a transition player, but eventually switched to forward. This transition was successful for Dhane as he was ranked third on the Bandits in scoring in both 2013 and 2014.


In 18 games during the 2014 campaign, Smith registered 20 goals and 39 assists for 59 points, while in the 2015 season he registered 39 goals and 68 assists for 107 points!


In 2015 Smith set personal bests in every offensive category ~ at this pace he is on course to finish with 151 points, which would not only obliterate the Bandits single-season record (115) but would comfortably top the NLL single-season record (130).


For his 2015 accomplishments and achievements, Dhane was selected as the youngest player for Team Canada. His participation in the World Championship and Gold Medalist was the highlight of his year. He ended the 2015 Professional season as 4th overall in the National Lacrosse League and 1st overall for the Summer Lacrosse League.


Dhane summed up his 2015 highlight and future aspirations “It was an unbelievable feeling putting on that red and white uniform and Canadian Flag for the first time. I have my mom and grandma here to support me and my teammates and coaching staff are behind me, letting me know they believe in me. It an unbelievable experience. When I am not playing lacrosse, I love to give back to the community by visiting schools and hospitals speaking and teaching children which would be my ultimate career goal.”

Dhane Smith

Tyler Varga – Football


Most NFLers are products of robust athletic bloodlines. His parents were accomplished athletes – rugby, downhill skiing and competitive bodybuilding – NFLer Tyler Varga boasts a similar lineage — with a unique twist.


Varga is a native of Kitchener, Ontario and a running back at heart, the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL would agree. He was signed as an Undrafted Rookie and played three games with the Colts, rushing for 2 yards; receiving for 18 yards and Kick off returned for 151 yards and making one tackle on special teams. These statistics are well above the average walk-on running back Rookie. Tyler was injured during his inaugural NFL campaign and placed on injured reserve with a concussion, ending his season.


To be signed by the National Football League is exceptional. To be signed by a National Football League Team as an Undrafted Rookie is remarkable ~ Tyler Varga is both exceptional and remarkable.


His physical prowess, ripped, muscular-popping physique created a stir at the Senior Bowl weigh-in in front of hundreds of NFL’s top talent evaluators and a wave of reporters and photographers. “‘Destroyer of Worlds’ is what he looked like,” said Josh Norris, a former draft consultant for the St. Louis Rams and current NFL Draft Analyst for NBC Sports’ Rotoworld.


John Kryk (February 14th, 2015) wrote:


“Indeed on first glance, you’d conclude Varga could not possibly pack any more muscle onto this 5-foot-10¼ frame. He weighs 227 pounds. Veins pop from his Popeye arms. And yet Varga is anything but muscle-bound in an athletic sense. In addition to his obvious power, he is surprisingly fleet of foot, and his feet are excellent: he can cut sharply. Otherwise Varga could not have starred at halfback in Yale’s spread read-option attack.


“My feet are pretty good, especially for someone my size. I make decisive cuts, and NFL coaches like one-cut guys. And I’ve got acceleration that can keep up with most guys. Even the 4.3 and 4.4 guys.”


How a kid from Kitchener wound up playing football in the Ivy League is its own story. Although youth football is not popular in Canada, Varga is one of the few Canadian NFLers who took up the sport as a child — in addition to competing in gymnastics, judo (he’s a blue belt), alpine skiing and baseball.


By the time Varga entered high school (Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute) he’d been playing football for six years. He played five positions and was a superstar, scoring 100 touchdowns and earning team MVP honours all four years — while playing club football on the side.


After Varga’s Grade 12 season he was named Canada’s top high school football player.


Varga liked the vibe in New Haven, Conn., and transferred to Yale. His on-field transition to the NCAA’s second-tier (Football Championship Subdivision) proved seamless.


Playing both running back and quarterback in 2012, Varga led the FCS with 194.2 all-purpose yards per game, 117 on the ground. Against Columbia he set a Yale single-game rushing record for QBs with 220 yards.


In all, Varga rushed for 100-plus yards 17 times in his Yale career, ranks third in rushing in school history, and made the all-Ivy team all three years.
And Norris said Varga is a rarity in that if he’s not already a good pass-protector, he has the skills to quickly become one — whereas “95%” of rookie backs prove unreliable in that role.


In Mobile, Varga already was warming to the idea of becoming a fullback as a pro.


“It’s a little bit of a transition,” Varga said. “That’s the biggest thing for me — trying to get comfortable playing a position I haven’t really played before. Being in the three-point stance, and having a different vantage point.
“But playing fullback gives me a chance to show I’m versatile. Everybody’s seen me play tailback on tape. Getting a few (Senior Bowl) reps at tailback, too, gives me the chance to show that I can play both positions. That’s valuable, because the more things you can do, the more ways you can help a team. That helps your draft stock.”


Varga impressed at Senior Bowl practices, then was one of the stars of the game. He ran four times for 31 yards and scored on a pair of nifty, shifty runs. He added three receptions for 39 yards as his North team defeated the South, 34-13.”


Becoming a member of the Indianapolis Colts is a dream come true!

Tyler Varga



Gord Dearborn, Kitchener


Gord Dearborn is a sports enthusiast, supporter, volunteer, mentor and community leader and the 2016 Award of Excellence Recipient – Individual Category.


His contributions are enormous and include – but are not limited to – servicing the Optimist Club of Stanley Park, Kitchener Minor Girls Softball Association and Kitchener Sports Association.


Optimist Club of Stanley Park – Gord has been a member since 1989 and is recognized for his contributions by being named a Life-Time member. His involvement includes coaching from 1989 through 1996; Chair/Co-Chair of the Ball program since 1993; responsible for the set-up, programming and maintenance of both the Club’s Ball Program’s and Grand River Bass Derby’s websites; Club’s chief photographer; volunteer at Club events including bi-weekly bingo sessions; Grand River Bass Derby; annual Bike Rodeo; Oktoberfest; Sledge Hockey Tournament; and responsible for fees, budgets, age brackets, schedules, equipment, trading cards, trophies, sponsorships, uniforms, team assignments, umpires, on-going daily supervision and wrap-up party!


Kitchener Minor Girls Softball – Gord was an active volunteer for many years and his contributions throughout his involvement include coaching, umpiring, league supervisor, board member – Director Recreational Division and acting president.


Kitchener Sports Association – never far from sport, Gord has been a contributing member of the Kitchener Sports Association (KSA) since 1994, Vice-President from 2006 to 2008, President 2008-2012 and currently donates his time as Director, Executive and Operating Committee, responsible for maintaining KSA Activa displays, website and KW edition of SportsXpress (content and programming), dinner fees, donations and operating expense account; main KSA photographer; member of the Scholarship Committee and past member of the Olympic Dreams Committee, 50/50 sales team and Spin 12 Team.


Congratulations to Gord Dearborn. In his words “Volunteer, participate, not for the recognition, it’s for the benefit of all those involved. See you at the park soon!” 

Gord Dearborn


Kitchener U15A Spirit Girls Soccer

Kitchener Minor Soccer Association, Kitchener


The U15A Kitchener Minor Girls Soccer team exemplifies the Award of Excellence Program – “outstanding leadership, excellence and influence to the sporting community.”


The U15A Team’s mission is “Building Better People Through Soccer” – this team and group of 15 year old young women have set a high standard of excellence, competitiveness and charity.

Their achievements and dedication to the community include:


◊ International Pink Day

◊ KSC Food Drive

◊ Sertoma Christmas Miracle


Congratulations to the 2016 Award of Excellence Team Recipients – the U15A Kitchener Minor Girls Soccer Team. True examples of outstanding leadership, excellence and influence to the sporting community – models for “Building Better People.”


Civitan Sports Waterloo Wellington


Civitan Sports – Waterloo Region was founded in the mid-1990’s by Don (Pete) McIlwraith, Murray Grose and Ed Davies with the motto “Building Better Citizens”.


The Not for Profit Organization’s objectives are threefold:

◊ Promote interest in minor or amateur sports for young men and women;

◊ Promote and encourage community pride and spirit through involvement in minor or amateur athletics;

◊ Arrange or assist with games, competitions, tournaments and other activities to further the promotion and playing of amateur sports.


Civitan Sports – Waterloo Region sponsored sports-related projects, tournaments, and locally based teams and individual athletes from Waterloo Region and surrounding areas.


Through their continued commitment to sport, community and individuals, Civitan Sports – Waterloo Region raised funds through the operation of various sporting events including the Civitan Jamboree held for Bantam and Midget age girls softball players; charitable bingos and Nevada ticket sales. The Jamboree, a locally held tournament, embraced both sport and building friendships and became the cornerstone fundraiser for the organization.


Funds generated by Civitan Sports – Waterloo Region were distributed in response to requests from various amateur athletes, minor sports associations and teams to assist with costs associated with their programs / participation in Provincial, National and International Events. The organization’s vision is to support as many athletes, associations and events throughout the region of Waterloo as possible.


Funding has supported – Skiing, Boxing, Softball, Hockey, Baseball, K-W Habilitation, Angels in the Outfield, Friendship Cup, Blue Convention for Umpires, Swimming, Athletics, Lawn Bowlers, Golf, Lacrosse, Scholarships, Record Playground Foundation, Big Brothers and Special Olympics.


Congratulations to Civitan Sports – Waterloo Region – your Legacy Lives On!

Civitan Sports