About Derek Wandzura
This special scholarship is named in memory of Derek Wandzura, a charming little boy who, with his smile and engaging personality, could hold the attention of any room. On Christmas Eve in 1986, at the age of five, Derek was diagnosed with medullablastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. During his four-year cancer journey, Derek relapsed three times and endured countless medical procedures. He was the first child to receive a bone marrow transplant at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and later participated in a phase-one clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Even the toughest treatments could not stop the cancer and, at the age of nine, Derek passed away beside his mother, while they were sleeping on the morning of April 26, 1991.
The cancer treatments he received caused serious long-term side effects in Derek. His vision, speech and mobility were impaired, and he required a one-to-one aide when he returned to school. Derek also suffered cognitive impairment and struggled with learning issues. Although the treatments compromised Derek’s ability to learn, they never managed to break his spirit or his love of learning. Derek never did learn to read, but he loved school and loved being with his friends. When he returned to St. Bede Elementary School in Calgary, the entire school community celebrated with him by hosting a special Hat Day in his honour to make him feel comfortable with his hair loss.
With his bright blue eyes, cheerful personality and lively sense of humour, Derek made a lasting impression on everyone he met. To this day, St. Bede still awards the WISAGRA Awards in his memory. Derek’s mother Christine McIver, founder and CEO of Kids Cancer Care, still attends this special awards day at St. Bede’s every June.
The WISAGRA Award refers to scripture, “…and Christ grew in wisdom, age and grace.” It refers to the qualities of courage, Christ-like, giving, helping and turning the other cheek. Derek’s qualities of perseverance, determination (ability to rise above), sense of humour (ability to see life with that humour) and his Christian attitude (loving and caring) are the basis of this award, which is awarded each year to deserving children who have also overcome adversity.
The Kids Cancer Care Derek Wandzura Memorial Scholarship recognizes similar qualities in young people who have overcome adversity because of childhood cancer. As the namesake of the scholarship, Derek’s spirit lives on in the countless young people who live their dreams, thrive and do great things with the help of a scholarship in his name.