Saturday afternoon, the BC Conference handed out their yearly awards, celebrating the 2016 football season on and off the field. Among the awards presented, the Conference was honored to recognize Royce and Merle Hetherington as the recipients of the 2016 Ken Smith Executive of the Year Award.
Volunteers are extremely hard to find, and good ones are even more of a rare breed. In the case of Royce and Merle, they are in a very special group. Starting with the Okanagan Sun in 1988, both Royce and Merle have been fixtures with the Sun in many different capacities, taking on challenge after challenge that always goes along with running a Junior football team. All along, Royce and Merle have continued to give back to so many, and make their experience with the Sun something truly special. Former Head Coach, and current General Manager of the Sun Jay Christensen couldn’t say enough great things about both Royce and Merle. “As a coach or GM or board member, having people like Royce and Merle with the team is invaluable. They have done so much to make the Sun a first class organization over the years. They have constantly stepped up for the right reasons, and their hearts are always in the right place. Our players have always been the focus for Royce and Merle, and they have looked out for many players over the years,” Christensen explained.
Over the many years of involvement, there isn’t much the dynamic duo hasn’t done with the Sun. Royce served as club President from 1990-1992, and they have assisted with the team billeting program, as well as the very successful Sun scholarship event. They have also handled the registration of Sun players for many years, a task that requires care and attention, and one that Royce and Merle have excelled at. It is easy to see that both Royce and Merle have made people around them better, yet another trait the two of them share. "Royce was the Sun registrar long before I took on the job as BCFC Registrar," noted the current Conference Registrar Judith Tucker. "Royce has been an invaluable source of information for me, and I could always count on him to be on top of things. Royce and Merle are dedicated to the well being of the players, and the Sun are lucky to have two such wonderful people in their organization," Tucker noted.
There is no question that a Junior football team has many facets in order to be successful both on and off the field, and having people who can take any and all of them on is critical. "It is difficult to think of a part of this organization that Royce and Merle have not touched in some way," Sun President Bill Long explained. "Their willingness to help, their sincere affection for the players, and the fact they are possibly two of the nicest people you will ever meet make them priceless. We are truly fortunate to have them with us," said Long.
They have seen many players, coaches, directors and other volunteers come and go over the years, and through all the change, Royce and Merle have remained constants with the Okanagan Sun. It is clear they love the organization and the game of football. There they were on Saturday afternoon, dressed in Sun gear and making the long trek from Kelowna to the Island in late October, cheering on the Sun. Where else would they want to be!