Playing in tournaments is the highlight of the Upper Dek Vees season each year.
The Vees special needs hockey team travels within the Okanagan Valley each year. Jay Bungay, coach of the Upper Dek Vees, said the opportunity for players to compete in tournaments further legitimizes their program.
“Tournaments is where they get to connect with teams and communities and feel like they are a part of something bigger,” said Bungay.
Bungay said many of the players develop relationships with others and become friends on social media.
“It’s a highlight,” said Bungay. “They are all looking forward to it. They work to putting on the best performance possible.”
Bungay said the players’ skills have evolved and they have a great time.
This season’s tournament will be in Surrey April 2 to 3 and the team is seeking sponsorship support to cover costs for travel, accommodation and meals. The tournament heads to the Lower Mainland after Bungay was approached by a representative from a group connected with the Vancouver Austim Society, partnered with the Vancouver Canucks, that wanted to get involved and host. This trip will cost close to $10,000 with $4,000 going towards the bus. The Vees were formed by DekSmart Products in 2008 and is a co-ed program. DekSmart’s annual donation has purchased equipment, jerseys and ice time. The City of Penticton has annually contributed reduced ice costs and insurance for all players and it has been a big contribution since the inception, but has also proven to be an enormous benefit to the players.
“You can literally see the excitement on their faces when they hit the ice while inspiring confidence and lasting friendships,” said Upper Dek Vees campaign co-ordinator Reg Gordon.
Businesses interested in supporting this cause can make cheques payable to City of Penticton — Special Needs Hockey Program, DekSmart Products Ltd., 364 Cherry Avenue. There are 27 adults in the program and nearly 12 in the younger program.