University of St. La Salle

#PassionWednesday with Johann Derek Sanchez Sanson

One would usually think that a 9-year-old would want something material like say, a toy or something to entertain them. But 9-year-old Johann Derek Sanchez Sanson, a Grade 4 student at the University of St. La Salle, stands out as a beacon of compassion. Despite his tender age, Derek has embarked on a heartwarming mission to make a difference in the lives of those battling cancer.

The spark of Derek's philanthropic journey ignited during the early days of online classes when he discovered that his classmate and friend, Cassian, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Unfazed by his age, Derek felt an innate calling to help. Little did he know that this would be the beginning of a remarkable journey, one that would touch the lives of many.

Derek's mother shares the origin of this altruistic venture, recalling the moment when the family decided to turn Derek's artistic talent into a force for good. Initially saving for a coveted Xbox, Derek redirected his efforts toward a nobler cause upon learning about Cassian's condition. With the support of his family, they began printing Derek's artwork on notebook covers, intending to sell them within the family circle.

However, what started as a small initiative for an Xbox transformed into something much greater. The money earned from the notebook sales was initially meant for Cassian's medical expenses but soon extended to other cancer patients in need. Derek's connection to the cause runs deep, rooted in personal experiences with illness. At just 1 year old, Derek faced a life-threatening complication with his intestines, miraculously resolving without surgery. Subsequently, at 2 years old, he battled nephrotic syndrome, a kidney condition, triumphing after nine months of treatment.

Derek's mother, reflecting on these trials, shares a poignant encounter with a pilgrim who lost a child to the same intestinal complication Derek faced. It led her to believe that Derek might have a profound mission ahead. His triumphant survival fueled Derek's desire to help others, a sentiment he expresses with sincerity: "I want to help other people because God healed me."

Derek, with a humility beyond his years, shares a poignant message about his artistic endeavors: “I am not the best painter, that’s for sure. However, I paint so that I can help the sick. I want them to live long and be able to spend time with their families too. I was also sick before but God saved me. Now, I want to save those who are sick.”

Despite the intermittent nature of notebook sales, Derek's impact has been substantial. The story gained traction in local news, spiraling into national coverage. Through various campaigns, he has raised a cumulative amount of approximately 300,000 PHP, aiding multiple cancer patients and families. His latest initiative involves raising funds for Christmas donations, showcasing Derek's unwavering commitment, and even overcoming a bout of flu to continue helping others.

Beyond financial support, Derek's notebooks have reached far and wide. Friends, relatives, and well-wishers have purchased them for personal use, as gifts, and for donations. The notebooks have reached public schools, SPED schools, war-affected children in Marawi, and, most recently, cancer patients. A testament to the community's generosity, 63 notebooks were sponsored by friends and family for a Christmas party dedicated to cancer patients.

As the holiday season approaches, Derek remains undeterred by setbacks, embodying the spirit of giving. His initial desire for an Xbox has evolved into a heartfelt commitment to making a positive impact, proving that even the youngest among us can become beacons of hope.

In a touching initiative, Derek is currently channeling his artistic endeavors to support Yohan, a brave young soul battling cancer. Those eager to contribute can purchase Christmas-themed notepads, each priced at 150 pesos. Messages and inquiries can be directed to Derek's mom at 09173002201 or Gianne Sanchez Sanson on FaceBook. Every act of kindness, be it through a purchase or donation, will be warmly appreciated as they collectively work towards making a positive impact in Yohan's journey and the lives of others fighting against the harsh realities of illness.

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