Kobe Funk, the North Okanagan Knights’ stats recorder and video assistant, is planning on a long career in sports management, having overcome many obstacles life has thrown at him. (Photo submitted)

Funk draws smiles from North Okanagan Knights

Volunteer Kobe Funk has come a long way since a premature birth and cerebral palsy diagnosis

Kobe Funk stands rinkside as a group of young men stickhandle the puck, carving ice from one end of the arena to the other. A whistle blows as the players return to the boards for further instruction.

Watching future prospects for the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) is just one of the many roles Funk has taken on since he started volunteering with the North Okanagan Knights hockey club.

While now poised to reach his ultimate goal of becoming a sports team manager, Funk has had to go through a long journey to find his footing.

Born premature, Funk suffered a stroke and other trauma at the start of his life. The doctors soon discovered that he had the neurological condition known as cerebral palsy, which impairs movement and muscle function. Funk’s family was told that he might never walk or talk.

Learning to Walk Before You Can Run

At the age of seven, Funk and his family moved to Vernon from Terrace. By then, he had undergone several surgeries to help him with his mobility.

“I believe I went through seven-to-10 operations. I had my femurs rotated, my Achilles operated on, as well as many foot corrections,” Funk said. “My parents did a lot of early detection. When I was three, they started sending me to a clinic in Portland, Oregon for occupational and physical therapy.”

When Funk was younger, he always dreamt about being an athlete. A self-professed Vancouver Canucks fan, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his younger brother, Zachary, who has been a prospect with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

“I used to spend hours in my room looking at my Canucks poster I had on my wall or staying up late on Saturday night watching Hockey Night in Canada, pretending to be a hockey player in my red Canada team sweater. I knew It would be a long process, and there was a stage where I thought my dream was over.”

Instead, Funk started exploring other avenues.

A Knighted Position

In 2018, after taking part in Community Futures North Okanagan’s Employ Youth Employability Skills Training Program, Funk started working with former WorkBC Vernon employment advisor Neil Thompson to find suitable work and pursue his main passion.

“I was picky with what I wanted to do. I was drawn to sports, but I wasn’t sure if there was anything out there for me. I gave Neil a hard time, but he stuck with me. He’s also a sports fan, so that helped.”

With help from WorkBC’s Customized Employment placement, Funk connected with North Okanagan Knights head coach Dean McAmmond.

“Coach Dean knew my brother, and he took me under his wing,” Funk said.

Given a volunteer position as the Knights’ stats recorder and video assistant, Funk has been working with the team this past season and says it has been an invaluable experience.

Through his connection with the Knights, Funk has met a few critical figures in the game, including Winnipeg Jets’ General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and NHL veteran Stacy Roest, assistant general manager and director of player development with the recently crowned Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“My ultimate goal is to become the general manager of an NHL team. There are only 32 positions in the field, but lots of different levels in management, so I hope to work my way up,” says Funk.

Nowhere to Go But Up

While working with the Knights has been a dream position, Funk has also been able to find paid work, thanks to WorkBC Vernon. Now employed at the Home Depot, he has gained even more confidence.

“Finding work and attaining a goal takes a positive attitude as you constantly have to prove yourself,” he said. “Some people don’t think I can lift things or that I always need help. I am here to prove to them and myself that I can accomplish anything and that there is value in hiring people with different abilities.”

Besides helping the Knights and lifting heavy bags of cement at Home Depot, Funk has also accomplished a few other goals.

He has built up his strength thanks to working out with his personal trainer Rhonda Catt at the Training House in Kal Tire Place North and has also joined the Canadian Para Soccer cerebral palsy team, with a goal of one day playing in the Paralympics.

Funk is also going through academic upgrading to meet the requirements to enter the recreation and sports management program at Vancouver Island University next year.

“My love of sports has helped me in more ways than one as I can’t stay stagnant or my muscles seize up,” he says. “While I used to be quite introverted and shy, now my confidence is building. I am comfortable in social interactions, and I can take control of situations. I have also been working on my public speaking. I feel like the phoenix is rising.”

Are you looking for meaningful work? WorkBC offers job options and services designed to support people with varying abilities, including job counselling, training, work placements, and more. Contact them at 250-545-2215 for more information.

READ MORE: Nedco boys win Midget banner

READ MORE: Dudes roll up the rim in Midget hockey


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eric Termuende and the Emily Dahl Foundation are presenting a virtual ‘fireside conversation’ on modern happiness from the stage of the Powerhouse Theatre in Vernon Nov. 3, 2020, at 7 p.m. (YouTube)
Mental health advocate joins Dahl Foundation’s happiness chat in Vernon

Versed public speaker teams up with Emily Dahl Foundation to equip virtual guests with tools to live a happier life

A boat moored at Turtle Bay Marina was reported stolen Oct. 1 and remains under investigation. (Contributed)
Lake Country crimes remain unsolved

Boat stolen from marina, theft of siding and vehicle break and enter

The 2021 Coca Cola Peewee Classic hockey tournament has been cancelled due to concerns around COVID-19. (Photo: theclassic.ca)
Vernon peewee hockey tournament cancelled due to pandemic

The 50th-annual Coca Cola Peewee Classic was slated to take place in February 2021

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

In May 2019, Brennan Joel Metlewsky and Jordan Robert Kupser were charged with attempted murder, robbery and aggravated assault stemming from an incident that took place in Vernon in 2017. (Facebook photo)
Attempted murder charges dropped for pair accused in Vernon stabbing

Brennan Metlewsky and Jordan Kupser will appear in Supreme Court to set a new trial date

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

In past years, Summerland has launched the festive season with the annual Summerland Festival of Lights. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival has been cancelled. (Summerland Review file photo)
Festival of Lights cancelled in Summerland

Annual November event normally launches start of festive season

Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services. (File)
RCMP say fire at Revelstoke apartment suspicious

Second fire in less than a week in Revelstoke contained to one unit

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Most Read