Wally Buono Award builds grassroots football in Canada.

Since 2003 the Saint Bernard Pass Charitable Foundation has been recognizing a player in the Canadian Junior Football League by awarding them the Wally Buono Award, named of course after the BC Lions General Manager and Canadian Football Hall of Fame member.

Photo: @ChristieBuono – Twitter

The 2014 recipient is Linebacker Dylan Chapdelaine (no relation to Jacques) of the Vancouver Island Raiders who meets the criteria required to be considered. Chapedelaine was presented with his award on Saturday by Buono at the Nanaimo Museum, where the award and its history are on display. The award takes into account not only the player’s athletic ability, but their leadership in the community they play in, a quality that Buono also considers when stocking his BC Lions with players.

Over a four year stint with the Raiders, Chapdelaine earned All-Canadian status each of those campaigns. In 2014 he finished the season with twenty-seven tackles, a sack, two knockdowns, one forced fumble and had two interceptions, while also leading the BCJFC with 20 assisted tackles. Chapdelaine was also named the BCJFC’s Outstanding Linebacker.

The Raiders program has been known for producing great football players, and Chapdelaine is the fourth Raider to win the award since its inception, following Jordan Yantz in 2012, Michael Schaper in 2011 and Andrew Harris in 2009.

Buono’s daughter Christie Buono-Schlecker, who also works with the Lions as Senior Sales Manager, Corporate Partnerships & Suites, and is part of the selection process with her father, says that Chapdelaine was a great choice.

“Dylan is clearly a fantastic choice for this award,” said Christie. “He’s not only a great player, but he’s an equally great citizen and leader among young people in his community.”

Buono himself added his thoughts from his Twitter account at the event:

The award is great for the player and is named after a very deserving man, but it also helps to grow the game of football in Canada by recognizing the skill and solid qualities of those that earn it.

“Every player strives to be recognized for their ability and I am no different,” Chapdelaine told the Nanaimo Daily News. “Winning the Wally Buono Award is a highlight for me as it tells me I am on the right track as a player and as a person. I am both honoured and humbled at being recognized by all involved in the selection process.”

The Wally Buono Award is just one program that the Lions are involved with youth football. The Orange Helmet Awards, started by the late Bob Ackles have raised thousands for programs at all levels, and the team is constantly in the community at schools, football camps and other events. It is work that is needed, to give back to the community, but to also give rise to new interest in the great game of football in BC and in Canada.

Previous Wally Buono Award Winners:

• 2013 – QB Asher Hastings, Regina Thunder
• 2012 – QB Jordan Yantz, Vancouver Island Raiders
• 2011 – SB Michael Schaper, Vancouver Island Raiders
• 2010 – DL Kleevens Jean-Louis, Châteauguay Raiders
• 2009 – RB Andrew Harris, Vancouver Island Raiders
• 2008 – WR Cassidy Doneff, Calgary Colts
• 2007 – RB Tristan Jones, Edmonton Wildcats
• 2006 – QB Nate Friesen, Winnipeg Rifles
• 2005 – RB Jeff Halvorson, Posthumous, Okanagan Sun
• 2004 – RB Chris Ciezki, Edmonton Huskies
• 2003 – RB Alan Giacalone, Calgary Colts

For more information on the award itself, including the creation of the trophy by sculptor Steve Lillegard, here is some background.