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Ilitch Charities awards $20K in scholarships

by Christy Hammond / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Former Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek allowed just two goals in Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup finals that stretched into three overtime periods, ending early the following morning. Despite the victory, Hasek was not pleased with his play so he got up early to participate in the optional morning skate to work on his game.


The Chairman of Ilitch Charities, Christopher Ilitch, described Hasek as the epitome of what it takes to be successful at a ceremony honoring scholarship recipients at Hockeytown Café on Monday afternoon.

Eight student-athletes from the Little Caesars AAA hockey program and the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League (LCAHL) each received a $2,500 scholarship from Ilitch Charities for their athletic and academic successes.

Ilitch spoke to the honorees and their families about the importance of being successful every day not just on the ice, but off the ice as well. He emphasized three characteristics of a successful individual – commitment, hard work and perseverance.

“There’s no substitute for working hard,” he said.

The student-athletes exemplified those three traits during their high school years, excelling in hockey, school and community service.

Ilitch Charities asked qualified students or their coaches or parents to apply for the scholarship over the course of the past season. To qualify, students must have been a current member of a Little Caesars AAA or LCAHL team, had to hold at least a 3.0 grad-point average, and must have plans to attend college within the next two years.

Members of the Ilitch Charities Board of Directors then interviewed applicants to better understand their education, community service experiences, their hockey performances, and what they hope to accomplish in college and beyond. The board made its final selections based on the interviews.

Recipients like Andrea Kot juggled travel hockey and a math-intensive course load on top of leading a recycling program at her high school. Her most memorable moment playing in the LCAHL came when her team defeated a team from Traverse City, Mich., to win the state title, despite losing to the same squad in each of their pre-season and regular-season contests.

“It was difficult, but it was manageable,” Kot said of all her activities. “I was able to balance them all pretty well. It wasn’t too hard for me. I’m good at that I guess.”

A final number of applicants was not immediately available, but the number was expected to rise this year due to the rising cost of college tuition as well as the downturn in the economy.

“It helps pay for my first year,” Mackenzie Smith said, noting the benefits of the scholarship. “I think I have my first entire year paid for with scholarships.”

The financial support is the primary benefit for the winning student-athletes, but there is also another way it helps the honorees.

“It obviously offsets the costs and the parents' costs,” Ilitch said, “but I think even more than that it signals them and gives them the confidence that they are on the right path. They are doing some great things not only on the ice, but off the ice as it relates to their grades and their community service. I think that by acknowledging those efforts, it really motivates them and encourages them to continue those types of efforts into the future, which is ultimately where a lot of their success will continue to come from.”

Kot added that winning this scholarship has motivated her to continue to play hockey at Michigan State University, despite the heavy workload that will come with her electrical engineering degree.

Hockey teaches athletes the importance of teamwork, hard work and dedication. The eight recipients also learned how to effectively manage their time like doing homework while driving to hockey practice.

The eight honorees include:

Stephen Barnett, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: The Lahser High School graduate will attend Michigan State University and play club hockey.

Chelsie Boroski, Sterling Heights, Michigan:
She recently graduated from Henry Ford II High School and was an assistant captain on her Little Caesars team. She will play Division III hockey at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire.

Ryan Brown, St. Johns, Michigan: The 2009 Michigan Hockey Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year will attend Saginaw Valley State University where he will tryout for the hockey team and major in business.

Jillayne DeBus, Howell, Michigan:
DeBus graduated from Hartland High School and will play hockey at Elmira (N.Y.) College where she wants to become fluent in Spanish.

Andrea Kot, Goodrich, Michigan: Kot graduated from Goodrich High School with a 3.75 GPA. She plans to major in electrical engineering at Michigan State University and will play on the club hockey team.

Brandon Lubin, Commerce Township, Michigan: The Walled Lake Northern High graduate will play in the North American Hockey League for Albert Lea Thunder before pursuing a medical degree.

Mackenzie Smith, Jackson, Michigan: Smith played percussion for Jackson High School in addition to her time playing in the LCAHL. She will attend Michigan State University where she will tryout for the club hockey team and major in kinesiology (phyiscal therapy).

Jay Snyder, Toledo, Ohio: Snyder juggled LCAHL, and bowling and track at Waite High School. He will attend Bowling Green State University to pursue a degree in criminal justice.

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