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Cheesman receives Ilitch Humanitarian Award at CCHA Banquet

Bo Cheesman

March 18, 2005

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State senior Bo Cheesman's work did not go unnoticed. The fiesty forward, who has entrenched himself in the Sault Ste. Marie community during the past six years, received the Ilitch Humanitarian Award at the 2005 Central Collegiate Hockey Association Banquet on Wednesday at the historic Fox Theater in Detroit.

Detroit Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch presented the award to Cheesman, who was also one of 15 nominees for college hockey's national humanitarian award. The five finalists for the national award, which includes male and female players, all hailed from the East Coast. Michigan State's Drew Miller was the only other CCHA nominee.

"It's great to get that award," said Cheesman as he was waiting for a flight to Atlantic City for his professional hockey debut with the Peoria, Ill., Rivermen of the East Coast Hockey League. "I'm going to take the award back to Peoria to let my family see it, but then I'd like to put it in the arena's trophy case. I'd like to show people that hockey players do give back. People might see it. It might bring more people in and help them feel closer to the guys."

Cheesman was recognized for a variety of volunteer services, including three years of work with young cancer patients at Camp Quality in Petoskey, Mich. In addition to helping former Laker Ryan Branham with his hockey school, Cheesman and teammate Alex Dunn plan to return to Camp Quality this summer. They hope to bring other friends with them.

"Any Lake Superior State student or athlete can go," said Cheesman, who noted that the job requires a lot of energy to keep up with the kids. "They need more college students to do the companioning."

The highlight of the awards banquet for Cheesman was a trip to Detroit's Hockeytown Café, where he learned of a benefit golf tournament held in memory of a boy, Brendan, a former Camp Quality guest who lost his battle with cancer. Prior to his death, Brendan had befriended his namesake, Red Wings great Brendan Shanahan, who has been instrumental in the tournament's success.

"Jeff Jakaitis and I will golf in the outing in June for Brendan's family," Cheesman said. "We hope to get a couple foursomes of Laker players to come down."

Jakaitis, a sophomore goaltender, attended the banquet with Cheesman and received recognition for being LSSU's Perani Cup points leader.

Cheesman learned the value of community service from his family.

"My mom (Judy Busch) has owned a bar for 20 years and has always provided free Christmas dinners to anyone who comes in the door," he said. "My dad (Mike) and stepmom (April) have always rung the bell during the holidays. It's always been in the family.

"And when I met Randi and Lani (Johnson), that got me into Camp Quality. Lani was a big role model for me too."

The Johnson sisters, including the youngest sibling, Mandi, are LSSU students and alumni from St. Ignace. Randi and Mandi Johnson are both Laker basketball players.

Cheesman's desire to give back to the Sault community was inspired by his trade to the Soo Indians as a junior player that "revamped" his hockey career. While playing for the Soo Indians, his house parent was the late Peggy Kaunisto, who was also well-known for her devotion to community service. Cheesman has honored Kaunisto at every game since her death by taping his stick on the Laker anchor before leaving the ice after pre-game warm-ups.

"What Peggy did was unbelievable," Cheesman said. "I could never compare myself to that...It will be different not being around the Sault any more. I've met a lot of great people. Yes, I'm leaving. But the way I look at it, the Sault was a major stepping stone for me. If I ever really make it, I'd like to give even more...I'm able to play (Friday) night because of the people of Sault Ste. Marie."

Cheesman will play his first professional hockey game Friday against the Atlantic City Bombers, who picked up Laker senior defenseman Ryan Reid. The Bombers are leading the ECHL's North Division, while the Rivermen are fighting for a playoff spot.

"I'll play half a college hockey season in about three weeks," Cheesman said.

Cheesman was warned to not pick a fight with his former teammate in his professional debut.

"I can't make any promises," he said.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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