Photo credit: Garrett James Photography
For the final time in the 2019-20 season, the BC Hockey League and Shaw Communications are proud to announce the latest recipient of the Shaw BCHL Community Hero Award – Marty Westhaver of the Victoria Grizzlies.
Westhaver, who is born and raised in Victoria, B.C., just wrapped up his fourth and final season with his hometown Grizzlies. He’s had a lasting impact on the community in the province’s capital, having volunteered his time coaching minor hockey, visiting schools on his own and, most importantly, helping raise money for cancer research along with the rest of his family.
For the Westhavers, the issue of childhood cancer has been something that’s been a big part of their lives for more than a decade.
“I have three younger brothers and the second-youngest one, born in 2003, he was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was five,” said Westhaver. “It’s had a huge impact on our family. I’m four years older than him, so when he was diagnosed, I was only nine years old. I saw everything first-hand.”
The good news is his brother Jack is doing well and – just like his three other brothers – is playing hockey competitively. Even though his situation has improved, that hasn’t stopped the Westhaver family from continuing their charitable work.
“My mom has done an amazing job with it by raising money,” said Westhaver. “She made her own foundation called Team Jack – my brother’s name. It originally was to raise money for him, but she’s built it into something more. It’s still called Team Jack, but the Jack part stands for Journey Against Cancer in Kids. It’s been something that’s been really close to us.”
On top of his work to help his brother’s foundation raise money, Westhaver has also put in time volunteering at local schools, with one instance standing out above the rest.
“I have a couple really good family friends of mine and they have a son who is in kindergarten and he asked me to be his show-and-tell for his class,” said Westhaver. “I went there one day for about an hour and just hung out and talked to all the kids in the classroom.
“That’s the type of thing that I’m going to remember forever, so it’s pretty special to be able to go do something like that.”
During his four years with the Grizzlies, one thing remained consistent for Westhaver and that was his head coach Craig Didmon, who has been with the team since the 2007-08 season. After getting to know him so well, Didmon is not surprised that Westhaver is being recognized for his work off the ice.
“Marty was a real heart-and-soul player for us,” said Didmon. “He’s a great teammate and very popular in the community. He’s a local player, so he knows how important it is to be a great ambassador for our team. He always has time for the kids in our community and is always very personal with them. He’d do that little extra to make them feel special.”
As the title sponsor of the Shaw BCHL Community Hero Award, Shaw is donating $500 to KidsRun Victoria, an event hosted by Team Jack. Scheduled for May, the run itself has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, but despite that, they are still raising money for cancer research.
“Kids need role models, like Marty, who show compassion and selflessness on a daily basis,” said Chethan Lakshman, Vice President, External Affairs for Shaw Communications. “Marty’s work with other kids and his efforts to fundraise for childhood cancer research show our communities how strong and connected we can be, even in the most challenging times. We are proud to recognize him as our final Shaw BCHL Community Hero for this season.”
After four years with the same junior team and 21 years in the same community, Westhaver recognizes how lucky he was to be able to spend all his time in Victoria.
“The whole community means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s my home. I’m here all the time and it’s somewhere I’m always going to come back to. My grandparents came to my practices. I got to play in front of friends and family every night, so I was definitely lucky. I cherished every game.”
Even though Westhaver will be leaving Victoria to play NCAA Division I hockey next year at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, he hopes he’s left a legacy that his teammates and the youth in the community will be able to continue.
“It’s important to me to be able to pass these things along and show these kids that, when you get older, it’s not all about you,” said Westhaver. “You’ve got to share it and provide an example for everyone else.”