The 2018 Ignite a Dream scholarship recipients stand with Surrey firefighters. Emma Salisbury stands second from the left. (@igniteadream / Instagram)

Scholarship ‘ignites a dream’ for Surrey teen who struggled with lupus, stroke in high school

Five students awarded $4,000 scholarships from Surrey Firefighters’ charitable efforts

Emma Salisbury has been through more in life than most 19-year-olds.

During her Grade 9 year, a blood test showed that she was in kidney failure. Her doctor didn’t know at that point if it pointed to cancer or lupus, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue.

The doctor ordered more tests. Salisbury was admitted to BC Children’s Hospital for a week, where she underwent chemotherapy and prednisone pulses in hopes of saving her kidneys.

But only a day after she was discharged and sent home, Salisbury had a major stroke that put her in the hospital for six months.

“Being a teenager who had to go through her last three years of high school being newly diagnosed with lupus and having a disability was frustrating and hard on my confidence,” she said.

Throughout her health struggles, Salisbury knew she wanted to go to school so that she could make a difference in the lives of others. Now, a scholarship awarded for overcoming barriers to education will help the Kwantlen Polytechnic University student do just that.

The $4,000 Ignite a Dream scholarship is an initiative from the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society that “helps remove barriers and ignite the dreams of high school students in Surrey who want to go to school,” according to a media release.

The scholarship program started in 2014, after firefighters responded to a call which ended tragically for a young person.

“The discussion turned to how tragic it was that some children with great potential, skill and intelligence, [but] due to their life circumstances never get the chance to succeed,” said Joel Neufeld, Surrey Firefighters Association member.

“The group of firefighters knew that the barriers towards furthering education needed to be addressed and with finances being the biggest hurdle, the ‘Ignite a Dream’ event was created.”

The “event” is an annual charity gala, organized in partnership with the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society and KPU. This year’s gala will take place on April 6, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Cloverdale KPU Tech Campus (5500 180 St).

In 2018, the evening of wine tasting and culinary delights raised more than $20,000 for the program, which means that five students receive $4,000 scholarships this year.

The 2018 recipients include Emma Salisbury, Ridwan Abdi Daar, Manvir Sangha, Fatima Ali and Ashmeen Judge.

The 2018 Ignite a Dream recipients stand with members of the Surrey Firefighters Association. Emma Salisbury stands second from the left.

Salisbury is looking forward to using her scholarship to pursue education that will allow her to dedicate her career to child and youth care.

“My hopes for the future are to obtain a job where I get to work with children,” she said. “Preferably, I would like to give back in a setting like BC Children’s Hospital so I can share my knowledge and experience of being in a difficult position of having an unwanted illness.”

For more information on the Ignite a Dream program, or to purchase tickets for the fundraiser, go to

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