A new scholarship for University of Victoria student athletes who have been impacted by organ donation has been created, named for a UVic alumnus who became the first athlete to play a professional sport after undergoing a heart transplant.
Simon Keith was an up-and-coming soccer star playing for the University of Victoria’s men’s team in 1984 and 1985 when he became seriously ill and required a heart transplant at age 21.
A native of Saanich who played high school soccer at Mount Douglas Secondary, Keith continued his collegiate career in Las Vegas following the operation, and went on to play professionally for the Cleveland Crunch of the Major Indoor Soccer League after being drafted number 1 overall.
Now 56, he still lives with his family in Nevada and is one of the longest living heart transplant recipients in history. He underwent a second heart transplant, along with a kidney transplant, in 2019.
The Simon Keith Foundation/Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame award will see a $3,000 scholarship presented annually to a student-athlete – the funds are split evenly if there are multiple recipients – who has received or donated an organ.
“This award is really about creating awareness and making an impact on the Victoria community that has always been home for me and holds a piece of my heart,” Keith said in a statement. “Our foundation is dedicated to increasing organ donor awareness and supporting and educating transplant recipients, and this new award will help continue that legacy.”
Keith has been inducted into both the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame and the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, and was named Canada’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2015.
The UVic award will be handed out in January each year.
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