Jeneece was diagnosed at the age of 3 with Neurofibromatosis type 1 which causes tumors to grow on nerve pathways anywhere in the body. In Jeneece, tumors grow off of almost every nerve root coming out from the spine. Her vertebrae are extremely thin and unsupportive. At the age of 3 we would find Jeneece on the floor, unable to move due to extreme pain. More often than not, she would fall from the top of the stairs. Doctors put Jeneece in a body brace to better support her spine and alleviate her pain.
At the age 5 Jeneece underwent spinal surgery to correct her curvature. A rod and screws were inserted to stabilize her spine. The first time Jeneece sat up the two of the screws pierced right though the vertebra into the spinal canal. A second surgery was performed 3 weeks later. Jeneece was instructed not to even raise her head more than on her elbows for the next 4 months. The doctors believed that she would never walk again. Her surgeon cried the day that she ran into his office, wrapped her tiny arms around his neck and told him "thanks for letting me walk again".
At the age of 7 and on her 3rd body brace Jeneece understood that Variety, The Children's Charity had been helping the family out with medical costs related to her condition. Jeneece wanted to give back, so she started a penny drive at her elementary school (Northridge Elementary). She raised $164.00. She presented this cheque on the Variety Show of Hearts Telethon but she was not very happy with that. The next year she elicited the help of our local news anchor to announce on the news that she was doing a penny drive to help Variety help the special kids of BC. The pennies came rolling in from every corner of the island. By the truck loads they where wheeled out. By the ton, they loaded on a BC Transit bus and taken to be sorted, counted and rolled. Over 16 tons and 3 weeks later she was ready to announce her total to Vancouver Island. She had collected an amazing $27,000.00. That total was matched on the telethon bringing Jeneece's total to $52,000.00. Through the next year Jeneece also helped "The BC Neurofibromatosis Foundation" with many of their fundraisers. She sold flowers at a plant sale, attended a Kick-a-thon for NF. She has spoken at the annual dinner and auction and she even sold 2 pieces of Art Work for over $300.00 each.
At 7, Jeneece attended Easter Seal's Camp Shawnigan for children with disabilities. The next year she wanted to help raise money for them. She hooked up with the local food chain "Thrifty Foods" to help raise awareness and collect money for Camp Shawnigan. Jeneece would go out on weekends and spend anywhere for 8 to 10 hours selling hotdogs and pop for the cause. When Jeneece was 9 she was unable to attend camp Shawnigan. They serve kids with disabilities but not with those who are undergoing chemotherapy. Jeneece's medical condition was so unstable and the specialists could not keep up with her symptoms. As a drastic measure, a mild form of chemotherapy was tried with remarkable results for Jeneece. Although Jeneece's tumors are not presently malignant, the doctor's feel that she is at a very high risk for getting cancer. Cancer's associated with NF typically are not treatable but symptoms from tumors have been managed on chemo drug therapies. Jeneece was the very first child in Canada to be treated for NF with Thalidomide. Thalidomide is the drug that was used in the 1960's that caused devastating birth defects for the pregnant mothers who took the drug for nausea.
Jeneece is the only child ever known to be on this drug for this time period. Her results have been so positive that they have just started another child on this drug for the same condition. When Jeneece turned 8, she had to go to a different camp. She attended Camp Good times. This is a camp for kids who have had cancer or are undergoing chemo- therapy treatment. A place where their medical needs can be met while they enjoy other kids who are going through the same life experiences. As you can guess, she started raising money for that as well, helping Thrifty Foods with hotdog sales on weekends for "Cops for Cancer" fundraiser. For the past 4 years Jeneece has shaved her hair off for the cause raising money for Camp Good times, she is a spokes person for the Cancer Society making appearances with the Tour de Rock riders and sharing her story.
Jeneece spends most of her time when not in school or in hospital fundraising for various charities. Her coin drive has grown over the years into a province wide phenomenal fundraiser. The most astounding thing is that other kids, schools, organizations businesses and government officials (up to Premiere Gordon Campbell) and also the Navy have taken up Jeneece's quest and have also done fundraisers to assist Jeneece with her goal. A 15 -year old Belmont student started a fundraiser on Jeneece's behalf 4 years ago and has now raised over $20,000.00. She did this because Jeneece inspired her. What amazes me is that these are kids are taking Jeneece's lead and doing things to assist the community. I think that this adds more to Jeneece's accomplishments. It is the ability to affect change in others. Jeneece's fundraising to date now towers over 1.25 Million dollars. She has been given the title of "The Penny Girl" here on Vancouver Island by The Province of BC and was recognized as such during question period.