Awards for the soccer programs at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) continue to stack up.
The latest player to be recognized is fifth-year forward Francesco Bartolillo. He's known for his stats, being the leading all-time leading scorer in the UNBC men's soccer program as well as recording six goals, four assists and 10 points this past season.
Although his on-field numbers are impressive, his off-pitch contributions and achievements are an example of leadership and giving. This combo has earned the Calgary native the U SPORTS Student-Athlete Community Service Award, the first in UNBC soccer history.
What an HONOUR. For the first time in @UNBC history, a Timberwolf has been honoured by @USPORTSca with a major award. Congrats to @F_Bartolillo of @UNBCMSoccer, the NATIONAL Student-Athlete Community Service Award winner. We are incredibly proud of you, Fran. Well deserved. pic.twitter.com/UjYy9uGXTZ— UNBC Athletics (@UNBCATHLETICS) November 8, 2018
"It’s a big honour and I’m very excited to receive the recognition for work off the pitch," Bartolillo tells PrinceGeorgeMatters.
"There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being a student-athlete, and giving back to the community is absolutely one of them. And I am very fortunate that the community of Prince George has welcomed me with open arms over the past five years, so to be able to give back was my sincerest pleasure."
The soccer star adds the accolade would not have been possible without his "fantastic teammates, coaching staff and support staff."
"So many of the events and fundraisers we ran over the years have been all hands in deck, so I think the recognition goes out to all members of our UNBC Timberwolves family!"
Bartolillo coaches youth soccer and founded a soccer tennis tournament to benefit KidSport BC. He also created the Timberwolves Student Athlete Society.
In 2017, he created an MVP of the Month initiative. The program identifies a youth in the community who is battling cancer. Fundraising events and awareness campaigns are focused around the child selected and the money goes to the child as well as cancer research. During the past two years, more than $10,000 has been raised and donated, through events like Fill the Bus Bottle Drive and the TSAS Flag Football Tournament.
"(MVP of the Month) is definitely one of my favourite and without a doubt one of the most rewarding feelings. It really opens your eyes to just how fortunate we are and the battles that some individuals are facing every single day," Bartolillo says. "The people we get to meet through doing this are absolutely amazing. So being able to help, even in some small way, is always worth it and really humbling."
In a press release, UNBC head coach Steve Simonson calls Bartolillo's contributions "admirable."
“His on-field actions speak for themselves, but his selfless actions off the field for his fellow athletes, and members of the community is why he is truly a successful student-athlete at UNBC," he says. "The MVP of the Month and other community initiatives that Fran has led, and what they mean to the families involved, far outweighs anything that happens on the soccer field.”
Others nominated for the award include Andrea Cicciarella from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Pierre Bardet from L'Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and Liam Elbourne from St. Francis Xavier University.
"On a more personal level this is something I will definitely hold dear to my heart for a very long time," Bartolillo says. "I know my family and friends were all very excited and proud of me and that brought me a lot of joy. So I’m now just going to soak it all in and be thankful for where I am today, and then focus on building on this."