Award recognizes efforts, contributions of young people to harness racing

Jason Simmonds
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SUMMERSIDE – Nicole and Gillian Reeves’s passion for harness racing has earned them a new award.

Mitch Illsley offers congratulations to Gillian, left, and Nicole Reeves, recipients of the inaugural Illsley’s Feed and Farm Supply Rising Star Award. Illsley is the assistant manager of the award sponsor.

The Summerside sisters were presented with the inaugural Illsley’s Feed and Farm Supply Rising Star Award during Saturday night’s final card of the Lobster Festival meet at Red Shores Summerside.

“I was inspired by their work ethic and enthusiasm,” said longtime horseman Bob Bowness, who created the award that recognizes enthusiasm, involvement and dedication of secondary school students. “It is quite inspiring to see these two young girls climbing over the fence at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning to come to the barns and get to work. . . Those two girls really opened my eyes.”

Mitch Illsley, assistant manager of the award sponsor, is hoping to grow the award in future years.

“We want to raise awareness for all the younger generation to get involved with the harness racing industry,” said Illsley, who added a plaque and photos of each girl will be placed on display in the trophy case inside Red Shores.

“I was inspired by their work ethic and enthusiasm. It is quite inspiring to see these two young girls climbing over the fence at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning to come to the barns and get to work. . . Those two girls really opened my eyes.” Longtime horseman Bob Bowness

Veteran horseman Frank Banks of Summerside added the Rising Star Award recognizes individuals who will become the future of the sport on P.E.I.

“We need the young people to keep this going,” said Banks. “Us older fellas are going to be gone, and there will be nobody to take over. It’s nice to see the younger ones take an interest.”

As for the award recipients, both were honoured and surprised by the recognition.

“I didn’t know what to say, I was so excited” said Nicole. “I didn’t know how to feel. I was so happy we got an award.

“It is like a routine for us working at the barn.”

Gillian commented: “I was really surprised that people actually thought about giving us an award. I didn’t think people would give us an award for helping people and doing what we love.”

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

Organizations: Frank Banks

Geographic location: Summerside

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