December 14th, 2014


10-year-old makes special Christmas Tree for players and coaches

VIU RELEASE: 2014/090  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stirling Henry, a kind-hearted 10-year-old Nanaimo boy who loves soccer, spread some Christmas spirit to members of Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Mariner men’s soccer team.

Henry, a grade 5 student at Mountain View Elementary in Nanaimo, presented a specially decorated Christmas tree to players at the team’s year-end banquet last week.

“Stirling made the tree with love to say thank-you to all the players and coaches,” says mom Diena.

Each member of the VIU team went home with a blue Christmas ornament decorated with their name and jersey number. Coaches went home with silver ornaments, while goalkeeper Scott Brown received a red ornament because he always wears red.

Stirling, who has played youth soccer since he was six years old, currently plays on a youth house league team. He gets extra practice by attending VIU Mariner summer soccer camps each year, and by attending Coach Bill Merriman’s Friday night Highlanders Soccer Academy for youth.

Merriman is also head coach of the VIU Mariner’s soccer team, and routinely enlists the help VIU team members to coach and mentor young players at the Academy.

“VIU Mariner team members are personable and caring and make each young player feel like they matter,” says Diena. “They are not just a team, they are a family and amazing role models for younger players to look up to on and off the field.”  

Merriman says all the VIU players and coaches “felt really good” about the young boy’s efforts to spread some Christmas cheer.

“It’s a great feeling to know a family would put in that much time to show their support,” says Merriman. “Stirling and his family have taken the support of the team to a great level.”

Merriman says when he started coaching the Mariners team six years ago, his goal was to develop a program that everyone could be proud of.

“We wanted to continue to be involved in training youth and to create a feeder system for VIU, and the best way of doing that was to get VIU players involved in the community,” says Merriman. “Coaching was the perfect avenue.

“VIU Mariner team members help coach young players like Stirling from youth soccer leagues in the region. Our VIU players give a little of their time volunteering and become role models for younger players. Young Stirling is an example of the rewards to players giving back.”

The Henry family recently cheered the team on during their shot at the provincial championships in Squamish.

Although VIU settled for a silver medal, they won a wild card berth to play in the national championships in Ontario. In a heart-breaking loss, they gave up the national title to Sheridan College Bruins in a shoot out. Merriman proudly points out the team has won four national medals in the past five years.

In Stirling’s eyes, however, the team’s sportsmanship and mentorship of young players wins a gold medal hands down.


Photo caption: Nanaimo soccer player Stirling Henry (left) presented the VIU Mariner men’s soccer team with a personally decorated Christmas tree to thank the team for their coaching skills and mentorship. Pictured here with Stirling is team member Drissa Bouare.

Marilyn Assaf, Communications Officer, Communications & Public Engagement
Vancouver Island University P: 250.740.6599 C: 250.618.4596 E: Twitter: @VIUnews