Riley Banks’ family filled Tofino’s council chambers to watch the 17-year-old West Coast graduate’s passion for helping others rewarded with a $40,000 scholarship.
Banks was announced as the Pacific Rim Foundation’s annual Dick Close Scholarship’s eleventh recipient by the foundation’s present Gary Marks on June 25.
“I am particularly proud that this year’s award goes to a young man who has been inquisitive and engaged from the first moment that he walked into my kindergarten classroom,” an emotional Marks said through tears.
He noted Banks is a well known compassionate ear for his peers to confide in and had dove head first into a diverse range of local job opportunities, volunteered with Pacific Rim Hospice and Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society and created a program to offer tech support to West Coast seniors.
“As Fred Rodgers said, ‘Look for the helpers.’ Riley is that and more. His volunteer efforts are evidence of a dedicated, generous and kind heart and his academic pursuits are proof of an open and keen mind,” Marks said. “Riley’s abilities and accomplishment have shown in his young life a strong character and a sense of purpose. He is a person who is invested in making the world a better place through a life of purpose.”
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After the presentation, Riley celebrated with his family outside the municipal hall.
“We’re just so proud of him,” his grandmother Phyllis told the Westerly News.
“He worked really hard for it. He sacrificed a lot of spare time for his grades and for helping other people. I’m just so proud of him. You couldn’t ask for a better son,” added his father Dan.
Mother Karyn Bernard said Riley’s thoughtfulness was inherent at a young age.
“He was the kind of child that would sit and ponder things and think things through and had a love of books,” she said adding support from his family and community helped Riley channel those qualities into a robust passion for making positive impacts.
“He’s been a well supported boy throughout his life by his entire family and well supported by both the communities of Tofino and Ucluelet as well…It really does take a community to raise children and we’re so fortunate and so blessed here on the West Coast to live in such a dynamic place and such a healthy environment and it really just fosters and nurtures the growth of our children.”
Riley told the Westerly that having his family behind him at the announcement illustrated the elements that had led to the event.
“If you’ve ever walked down a beach and turned around at a certain point to see your footprints behind you, that’s what it was like,” he said. “I could see everything that’s brought me to the point that I am now. Seeing everyone that’s helped me and supported me through all the different experiences.”
He has been accepted into the University of Victoria’s computer engineering program, but said he would not forget his West Coast roots and would return to the community often.
“I would not be here and I would not be the person I am without my community,” he said.
The Pacific Rim Foundation’s $40,000 scholarship was created by longtime West Coast resident Dick Close, who remained anonymous as its benefactor until his death in 2016.
Marks said Close’s motivation with the scholarship was to create an incentive for young families to stay in the community and encourage youth to make a positive impact.
“Central to the scholarship was the idea that the recipient would be a person who was invested in making the world a better place through a life lived with purpose,” he said. “This scholarship would celebrate the idea of service to others…We celebrate their volunteerism and contributions to others and their determination to make a difference in a world faced with increasing and great challenges,”
The foundation recently announced the scholarship’s endowment fund has been transferred to the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust to be managed and invested.
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