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Lori Derksen’s Legacy Story

April 3, 2024

She might not have X-ray vision or the ability to fly, but like Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, Lori Derksen was raised on a farm and has always been driven by a deep and profound desire to help the people around her—family, friends, and strangers alike.

As a child, Derksen was fascinated—obsessed, she admits—by the story of Clark Kent, whose parents sent him to Earth from the planet Krypton when he was a baby. Young Clark was raised on a farm near the fictional town of Smallville, USA. Young Lori was raised on a farm near the very real town of Alexander, Manitoba, about 25 kilometres west of Brandon.

Derksen is the daughter of the late Peter and Verna (née Balzer) Derksen and was raised with her brother Steve on the mixed grain and cattle farm before the family moved into Brandon. Both sets of grandparents emigrated to Canada from Eastern Europe, and Derksen continues to embrace the Christian faith and Mennonite values that shaped her family’s passion for community service.

Derksen has been especially inspired by her mother’s faith and generous spirit: “She taught and inspired me to have a heart for service,” she says. “I have tried to continue that legacy through my own life.”

Verna Derksen worked at Brandon’s Richmond Park Mennonite Brethren Church—where the family attended—for over 20 years. Mother and daughter were also very active with Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization. To honour her mother’s memory, Lori Derksen’s estate planning includes a bequest to Operation Christmas Child. To honour both her mother and father—who loved the ballet (especially A Cinderella Story, the last ballet they saw together)—her will also includes a gift to Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Her third bequest is a gift to the Health Sciences Centre Foundation, designated to spine and back research and care. As someone who deals with chronic spine and back issues, this is a particularly meaningful bequest for Derksen. She spent a great deal of time researching her choices and understanding how her bequests would make a difference: “I think my mom would have been proud of my choices.”

Derksen believes deeply in the importance of philanthropy in making a difference—gifts of all sizes from people from all walks of life. “I’m certainly not a wealthy woman,” she says. “I’ve worked in the not-for-profit sector my whole life, and I grew up on a very small family farm, but I want to communicate that you don’t have to be wealthy or well-established or make a huge gift to make a difference. My philosophy in fundraising is: every penny counts.”

After graduating from Assiniboine Community College, Derksen moved to Winnipeg to begin her storied career in the not-for-profit sector. She has enjoyed stints in corporate sponsorship, event management, communications, and fundraising with various organizations in education, the arts, health care, community development, and agriculture. She is particularly proud of her work with Canadian Mennonite University, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, and STARS Air Ambulance. At the time of writing, Derksen is working as Director of Member Development at the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada.

Derksen is very close with her brother Steve, his wife Rhonda, their children Dawson (Alexandra) and grand-daughter Scottie, and Samantha (Cameron), and their family pups Bailey and Oshie. She loves spending time with friends, reading, binge watching a favourite show or movie, working on projects in her character home, and baking (cookies are a favourite, along with her mom’s recipes for doughnuts and butterhorns). She also enjoys antiquing and visiting vintage shops—usually in rural Manitoba—where she sets her sights on vintage milk stools and floral items that tastefully adorn her 115-year-old character home in north Winnipeg near Kildonan Park. She also loves travelling, having taken recent trips to Alaska and Ireland, with another to Scotland in the works. And a trip to the Eastern European villages of her grandparents’ births is making its way from the back of her mind to the top.

Lori Derksen finds her bliss in bringing people together for a common cause but is equally comfortable riding a quad as she did on the farm, baking dozens of cookies at a time, or searching for the perfect milk stool. Above all, though, she is driven to help people today through her professional work and acts of service and in the future through her generous planned gifts. Not only would her mom be proud, Superman would be, too.