SUMMERSIDE – Edwin and Janice Gillis understood they were to arrive at Three Oaks Senior High School on Saturday night to share in their daughter receiving a prestigious award.
What the Gillis’s didn’t know was that immediately after 17-year-old Jessica would be announced as the fourth member of their family to be named female athlete of the year, they would be called on to receive the Three Oaks Senior High School Athletic Alumni Association award.
“It was a really big surprise and honour to receive it,” said Janice. “We have enjoyed our time at Three Oaks with sports immensely.
“I can’t say enough how much we appreciate the coaches, staff, volunteers. There are a lot of people and a lot of effort behind the teams. We are very humbled. It didn’t seem like any effort on our part because we enjoyed it so much.”
The award recognizes contribution to the growth and promotion of Three Oaks athletics and student-athletes.
“It truly is an honour to be up here speaking about these two amazing people and parents,” said Three Oaks multi-sport coach James Voye. “The countless hours spent driving to practices, games and off-Island tournaments for over . . . well, practically a decade, is unmatched.
“In all those years I don’t think they missed a single exhibition, league, tournament or playoff game, and if they did I’m willing to bet they can count them on one hand.
“Their dedication to their children and to sports at Three Oaks since 2006 is absolutely incredible.”
Jessica’s photo will now join her sisters – Jaimee, 23, 2008; Emma, 21, 2010, and Erica, 18, 2011 and 2013 – and all the Three Oaks athletes of the year on the wall outside the gymnasium.
While it’s nice to receive individual awards and enjoy success, it’s the passion and dedication of Jaimee, Emma, Erica and Jessica that pleased their parents.
“I want to thank all of our girls because they never once asked to miss a practice or complained about going to practice in all their years in sports,” said Janice. “The girls have never been demanding in terms of needing equipment or anything (like sport-specific footwear and new badminton racquets).
“They have been angels in terms of never complaining about anything.”
One individual who has had an impact on all four sisters is Voye, who called it an honour to present the award.
“It did bring tears to my eyes what James Voye had to say,” continued Janice. “He (Voye) has coached every one of them in some capacity, and is a great role model.
“When he started to talk about different events and different times, I was welling up.”
The Gillis’s always had a goal of having at least one parent in attendance for games, especially rugby.
“Janice was always worried about them getting injured,” noted Edwin. “She would try her best to be at the rugby games for sure.”
While a lot of rescheduling and rushing went into making things work, the Gillis’s time line for arrival at games was always a hot topic of discussion.
“We would even fight a bit because (Edwin) always wanted to be there for pre-game warm-up, and I was more keen to be there for when the game starts,” said a smiling Janice.
Edwin admitted that while he and Janice “are going to have the empty-nest syndrome for a while,” in the fall, they will continue to support the Summerside high school’s athletic program.
“I fully expect for the next year or two that we are still going to come to the Three Oaks games because we still know a lot of the girls and guys who are playing,” said Edwin. “I would like to reiterate what Janice said about our appreciation for the coaches, staff and teachers at Three Oaks through the years. They’ve been unbelievable, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”