THE ‘VEGAS BORN’ IDENTITY: Vegas Golden Knight Deryk Engelland launches charity foundation for the city he has embraced

Charity begins in your hometown — even if it’s an adopted one.

“Back home, there weren’t a whole lot of ways to give back, it was a small town of about 2,500 people,” says Canadian-born Vegas Golden Knights star/defenseman/co-captain Deryk Engelland, 36. “But with the position we’re in now, it’s not a must, but it’s a want, for every one of us to try to give back.”

And so he does. Embodying the heart and guts of the National Hockey League’s Golden Knights as they follow up their inaugural, Stanley Cup-competing season, this man also embodies community spirit via his charitable instincts.

Though a Las Vegan since 2004, Engelland’s star went supernova during the Golden Knights’ historic 2017-2018 season. With his sky-high profile came frequent displays of community involvement, especially shortly after the 1 October tragedy last year. 

Now that compassionate streak has taken the form of his family-run Vegas Born Heroes Foundation. Launched in September, the foundation’s mission is to recognize and reward charities and individuals who selflessly serve others in Las Vegas. Through late September, the foundation solicited nominations for 20 honorees, who will be guests at Golden Knights games, where they will be spotlighted and gifted with team and foundation paraphernalia.

“Last year after October 1st, we recognized the first responders and the victims of the tragedy, so this year we wanted to branch off a little,” Engelland says. “People nominated teachers, kids doing charities, anything that might go unnoticed for what they’re doing. We wanted to honor those people and show support for them.”

Once the foundation revs up, Engelland adds that he hopes to bump up the annual number of heroes honored and even expand the mission to fundraisers. “Hopefully we will grow this into something pretty special, and it was extremely touching reading all the nominations sent in,” he says. “It was extremely hard to narrow it down.”

Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Deryk Engelland takes part in practice Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at City National Arena. CREDIT: Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland shares a light moment with a teammate in practice at City National Arena. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau)

Just as our city has embraced Engelland and his teammates, you’d be hard-pressed to find any public figure as determined to embrace us back. “In the locker room, we know we’re blessed to be playing where we’re at, and I think every guy wants to give back to the community. Being from Vegas now, that’s the least we can do. It’s important, for us calling Vegas home a long time, to bring the community together even more.”

Notably self-effacing, Engelland assumed an inspirational role when he addressed the crowd at the Golden Knights home opener last season at T-Mobile Arena on Oct. 10, 2017, just nine days after the tragedy:

“Like all of you, I’m proud to call Las Vegas home,” he told the sellout crowd, trying hard to keep his emotions under control as those everywhere in the city and around the nation ran extremely high. “I met my wife here. Our kids were born here. I know how special this city is. To all the brave first-responders that have worked tirelessly and courageously through this whole tragedy, we thank you. To the families and friends of the victims, we’ll do everything we can to help you and our city heal. We are Vegas Strong.”

Reflecting on those words now, Engelland is still astounded he was able to get through it. “You had a home opener where usually your emotions are extremely happy,” he says. “This was the first time ever that so many different emotions are running through your body before a game and to be able to get up and speak and get the response to the speech I could never have imagined getting was pretty special. It doesn’t matter what I do in my career, it’s going to go down as the top moment of my career.”

One year later, this Vegas hockey hero continues to make aiding this city the best goal he could shoot for.  

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by Steve Bornfeld/Las Vegas Newswire

by Steve Bornfeld/Las Vegas Newswire