Meet Marco: How this BC student channeled his complex health challenges into his career purpose

Marco Dixon - Lisa Huus Bursary

For Lisa Huus Bursary recipient Marco Dixon, artistic expression is a way of life. Brought up by a fashion designer and a musician, Marco’s parents taught him to use his complex health challenges to fuel his creativity.

At only eight months old, Marco was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when doctors noticed that one side of his body was not developing at the same rate as the other. And when he experienced his first seizure at 21 months, he was also diagnosed with epilepsy. During his teenage years, Marco was pronounced dead on three different occasions following epileptic episodes.

“I think of a seizure as my body having an earthquake. It’s uncontrollable; it’s almost like going through a tsunami, twisting and turning. I use these memories to create extraordinary images on screen. This is my life goal in the end,” says Marco.

Thanks to a combination of medication and naturopathic remedies, Marco has been able to manage his complex health challenges and continue to pursue his passions. He has been able to deepen his artistic toolbelt by completing programs in creative writing, performing arts, photography, and film production throughout his post-secondary studies at Capilano University.

When he was only 16, he created his first short film showcasing his experiences as a young person living with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. The film was met with such success that it raised $30,000 for the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia.

“The film is about my experience of being misunderstood as someone who doesn’t have a ‘regular’ body and has been always treated differently. It has been shown throughout the Vancouver School Board to teach kids compassion and awareness for their classmates with differences,” says Marco.

The film is one of many ways that Marco has used his talents as a filmmaker, cinematographer, photographer, and writer to make a difference for those living with complex health challenges. Through his production company, Naked Lenny Media, Marco takes on projects that allow him to amplify the voices of those who are often unheard.

“There is always a story to tell. Stories comes from thought, and thought turns to art. It’s a way of expressing yourself, whether it’s just one statement, a photo, a moving image, a live performance, even the sound of music,” says Marco.

Outside of the classroom, Marco is an advocate for accessibility awareness in many ways. As the student union’s Disability Justice Coordinator in 2019-2020, he was committed to making campus more accessible to students with disabilities, including the cafeteria’s setup. Marco was also instrumental in establishing Capilano University’s new policy which supports students who have to leave school for extended periods due to medical challenges. Instead of having to reapply, they are offered a five-year period in which they can continue their program.

For students with complex health challenges like Marco, post-secondary course loads must often be spread over several semesters to accommodate treatment time, hospital stays, and other health matters. This can create financial strain and threaten the ability of students to finish their degrees.

As a recipient of Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island’s Lisa Huus Bursary, Marco has been able to stay enrolled in school, while prioritizing his health. He credits the bursary for allowing him to continue to expand his knowledge and creative techniques.

When asked about the impact of the Lisa Huus Bursary on his education, Marco reflects, “it’s organizations like yours that ignite the drive of students with health challenges and allow them to go on thrill rides of new experiences. Thank you for being the extra piece of strength to increase my intellectual database and career as a filmmaker, cinematographer, creative writer, and performing artist.”

The Lisa Huus Memorial Fund was created in memory of Lisa Pauline Huus in 1988 by her family and has been supported by personal donations and fundraising activities for 30 years. Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island is now accepting applications for the bursary, and successful applicants will be awarded up to $5,000 for 2021/2022. Applications are due May 31, 2021.  To learn more or to apply, visit our Lisa Huus page.