SALT LAKE CITY — After a University of Utah football player’s sudden death, the Polynesian community has set up a scholarship fund in Gaius Keio Vaenuku’s name.
Vaenuku was known for being a driven student and player, with a friendly disposition before his death in a car crash July 29 on his way to Texas with several other people. He was sought after by Notre Dame and Brigham Young University in addition to the U. of U. To honor Vaenuku, the non-profit arm of All Poly Sports — a football camp program that promotes healthy lifestyles — has set up a scholarship fund for high school athletes entering college.
The scholarship will be awarded annually to an individual who demonstrates “exemplary leadership and academic achievements,” a press release stated. It would help cover costs of a U.S. college or university education. The athlete will be chosen by a committee made up of leaders in the Polynesian community and the Vaenuku family.
“The Vaenuku family is deeply moved and grateful for this effort in the name of Gaius,” the Vaenuku family spokesperson Fotu Katoa said. “As heartbreaking as our loss has been, we hope his memory inspires others to pursue excellence. We also hope the funds offered in his name will bless a student pursuing a college education.”
Members of Utah’s football community can help fund the scholarship Saturday, September 21, at the BYU and U. of U. rivalry game by purchasing a wristband online or near the KSL radio booth. The bracelets are inscribed with Vaenuku’s initials and a traditional Polynesian design. Other donations to the fund can be given directly to All Poly Sports.
“Gaius Vaenuku was such a special part of our camp,” Alema Te’o, founder of All Poly Sports said in the release. “We are deeply saddened by his loss and the loss of his friends. When we lose one of these young men, no matter the circumstances, it is a heartbreak to us all.”