With plans of studying theatre at the University of Guelph this fall, Alison Agar could not have been more pleased when she received word that she had been awarded the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award.
“I really did not expect to win the award,” Agar confessed Sunday. “I went through the interview process and I thought that it had gone well, but I felt there were so many people more deserving than me.
“I was very surprised when they told me I had won.”
Awarded the honour last year, Agar decided to hold off on going away to school after having just received her third kidney transplant earlier that same year.
“On Jan. 23 I had my kidney transplant,” Agar recalled. “I had thought about going to school that fall, but I thought it would be better to stay here and then go away next year. This is the longest transplant that I have had and for the first time I didn’t need to be on dialysis. There were so many changes going on that I just thought it would be best to stay close to home.”
The Terry Fox Humanitarian Award is granted to men and women from across Canada who demonstrate the highest ideals and qualities of citizenship, who selflessly give of their time and talents to help those in need and who maintain a high academic and social standing.
Now in its 18th year, the award was established by a grant from the Government of Canada in 1982 under the aegis of Fitness and Amateur Sport- to provide permanent and honoured recognition of Terry Fox’s courage and determination by offering financial assistance to students who best exemplify his distinguished qualities and ideals.
The value of each award is $4,000 annually, renewable for a maximum of four years or until a first university degree is obtained.
“I heard about the award through a website called StudentAwards.com,” said Agar. “I went on the site and filled out this four page questionnaire. Right away they sent me information on the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award.”
“At first I thought that I was not qualified because it mentioned athletics and being involved in sports,” added Agar. “But after a bit of research I found out that you did not have to be an athlete. More than athletics they emphasized volunteer and community service, which was something I had always been involved with.”
With the award deadline coinciding with her transplant surgery, Agar admits that her mind was not on her surgery while she was in the hospital.
“My mother told me that the first thing I asked when I woke up from my surgery was whether she had sent out my application or not,” Agar noted. “I really wanted to apply for the award and I was worried that we had missed the deadline.”
With days to spare Agar’s application was sent and within four months she had received word that she had been picked to come down for an interview in Toronto.
“I had been home a week when I heard they wanted me to come to Toronto for the interview,” Agar stated. “After talking it over we decided that we would request to have the interview in Winnipeg. I had just returned home and the trip to Toronto would have been too much.”
“My mother contacted the organization and they were very understanding,” Agar continued. “They said that there would be no problem and that I could go to Winnipeg for the interview.”
In front of a panel of four people Agar answered questions about herself and described to them what type of volunteer work she had been involved with.
“I really went into the interview not expecting much,” Agar said. “I had never been in a formal interview before and I thought at the very least it would be a good experience. When the interview was over I walked away feeling very good about it. I was really surprised with how comfortable I felt.”
With hundreds of applicants from around the country applying each year for the award, Agar returned to her daily life thinking she had not won.
“[Last year] we had 741 applicants from across Canada,” said the program’s Executive Director, Mr. W. Lorne Davies. “The number of outstanding, qualified applicants certainly made the Selection Committee’s job very difficult.”
After returning home from an April check-up in Toronto, Agar was surprised and delighted by the news of her having won the award.
“The organization had called while I was in Toronto and had a left a message for me to call them when I got home,” remembered Agar. “I called them and they told me that I had won. I was so excited.”
In order to continue to receive the award, Agar will have to maintain her academic and humanitarian standing while pursuing full-time studies at the post-secondary level.
“I am really excited about finally going away to school,” Agar said. “I really can’t believe that I will be going away in September. I know I am probably going to miss my family, but I am really ready to do this.”