Killarney secondary school collecting funds for student's funeral

Classmates and staff hope to raise $5,000 for family

Staff and students at Killarney secondary school are raising money to help a family with burial expenses for a beloved student who died earlier this month.

Killarney secondary school Grade 12 student Autumn Rose died Dec. 3 after a three-year fight with a rare form of leukemia. She was 17. "We don't have the ability to bring Autumn back but we have the chance to help her family," said Killarney principal Dave Derpak.

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Autumn, whose last name is being withheld at the request of the family, entered the enriched academic mini school at Killarney in Grade 8. "All of the students said she was a very caring person," Derpak said.

He noted Autumn and a friend raised money for and handed out a scholarship for a "stay clean anti-drug program" at a grad a couple of years ago. "Last year, some of our Grade 12 students decided to raise money for a computer for her because she was basically in isolation because of her illness," Derpak added. "When Autumn found out about it through her grandma, she said, 'I don't want them to do that, I just want to be a regular student like everyone else and give the money to a charity, don't give it to me.'"

Autumn maintained her schoolwork while at B.C. Children's Hospital. "What her grandma was saying was what kept her going was that she had a dream and a passion to go to [the University of Victoria], and she actually was accepted at UVic just before she passed away," Derpak said.

"She really wanted to be a childhood educator and I find that really inspirational," added Kaayla Heighton, who is the school's student prime minister.

Sarah Spencer said her late friend was a lot of fun. "Despite the hard stuff she had to go through she was always smiling and lively," Spencer said.

Heighton said Killarney aims to raise $5,000. "A couple of years ago my grandpa has his funeral and the expense was $11,000," she said. "So I know that it's not cheap at all."

The school hopes alumni and Vancouverites whose lives have been affected by leukemia or cancer will donate.

Cash or cheques can be dropped off at the school at 6454 Killarney St. Autumn's memorial is scheduled for noon on Dec. 15 at Coastal Church, 1160 West Georgia St.

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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