VICTORIA - The University of Victoria Vikes are proud to announce the addition of the Howlers Rugby Award, donated by the board members and supporters of the Saskatchewan-based Dog River Howlers Rugby Club. The endowed award is designed to provide funding for Canadian Indigenous student-athletes in the Vikes men's and women's rugby programs who demonstrate an enthusiasm for academics, rugby, and community involvement. This Indigenous-specific award is the first of its kind in the Vikes athletics program.
"Unquestionably the University of Victoria has one of the most respected rugby programs in North America along with being a leading academic institution from which the Howlers have drawn numerous players, both men and women," said Karl Fix, Dog River Howlers RFC's founder. "The Howlers are indeed proud and honoured to be associated with the Vikes in this endeavour."
One of the Howlers aims is to connect people worldwide, using rugby as its bridge. The Howlers travel worldwide throughout the year, playing rugby and experiencing various cultures during that time abroad.
"Rugby should be part of an overall educational experience," added Fix. "The learning experiences of being a part of a rugby team and community can help people learn to cope with the successes and failures they will have to deal with in their lives. Hence our club's mantra - 'it's more than a game, it's a way of life' which was again further demonstrated by the generous financial support given by our club's board of directors and supporters for this most worthwhile project."
Mike Holmes is one of those supporters and has played an integral role as a key fundraiser for the Howlers Rugby Award.
"The UVic rugby program is the best university program in the country and probably the Americas," echoed Holmes. "Doug Tate [Vikes men's rugby head coach] is an inspiration to the sport of rugby, the players and the coaches everywhere."
Holmes also shares the view that rugby is much more than just a game played on a field.
"It is about brotherhood and sisterhood and the elimination of barriers across race, class, and even ability as it caters to all shapes and sizes," says Holmes. "Further, it demands the recognition, respect and friendship not only with your own teammates but with your opponents. It makes one humble and appreciative of both one's abilities and one's limitations."
Since their inaugural season in 2007 the Dog River Howlers have raised over $600,000 for various organizations and causes. Examples of these organizations include Canada's men's and women's national rugby teams, Cuban Rwandan and Afghanistan rugby, shelters for abused women and children, a wheelchair-accessible van for a quadriplegic rugby player and cancer patients, among others. Fix sees the newly established Howlers Rugby Award in the Vikes program as a new way to acknowledge and motivate Indigenous student-athletes who combine athletic excellence, academics and community involvement.
The creation of the Howler's Award was in response to a challenge put out to Vikes Rugby alumni and supporters to take advantage of a generous matching opportunity that is a component of the campaign for the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA). For a limited time any new endowed athletic awards are being matched, thanks to a generous anonymous donation to CARSA. To date, there have been $55,000 pledged to the Howler's award, which when matched will establish a $110,000 endowment for Indigenous rugby players at UVic.
"This is exactly the kind of initiative that our donor envisioned in challenging our many Vikes supporters," said Clint Hamilton, director of Vikes Athletics and Recreation. "The Dog River Howlers Rugby Club's board members and supporters commitment to establishing the HOWLERS AWARD is a wonderful example of the power of our CARSA project and the catalyst that it is in building a strong future for the University of Victoria and we are grateful for this tremendous support."