Jeneece Edroff, O.B.C.
“I am a bit like a penny, by myself, I am not worth much, but with a little help and lots of pennies, you can achieve a lot. Every penny counts and even the smallest person can make a difference.” ~ Jeneece Edroff
Jeneece was three years old when she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a debilitating genetic disease, which causes tumors to grow from neural crest cells nearly everywhere in the body. In Jeneece’s case, tumors grew from the nerve tissues in her spine causing her vertebrae to become extremely thin and unsupported.
For two years Jeneece relied on a back brace to alleviate her discomfort before undergoing surgery to correct the abnormal curvature. A rod and screws were inserted to stabilize her spine, but the first time she sat up, two of the screws pierced right though the vertebra into the spinal canal and a second surgery had to be performed three weeks later. Jeneece was instructed to not raise her head for the next four months. Her doctors believed she would never walk again, and they told her parents it was unlikely she would live to be a teenager. True to her nature, Jeneece surprised them all by fully recovering and running into the surgeon’s office to thank him for “helping me walk again.”
Jeneece spends much of her free time fundraising for charities and raising awareness about the needs of sick children. Her annual Jeneece and Friends Coin Drive turned into a province-wide phenomenon and has raised over $1.5 million for Variety, the Children’s Charity.
In 2009, Jeneece began fundraising for her own dream – Jeneece Place – a home away from home for families traveling to Victoria for medical care. Her story, her dream, and her perseverance caught the attention of Mel Cooper, Chair of the TELUS Victoria Community Board, TELUS CEO Darren Entwistle, and local media personality Bruce Williams. Mel and Bruce brought the dream to the attention of Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island (then the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children). A partnership developed between Jeneece and Children's Health Foundation, and TELUS selected Jeneece Place to receive the proceeds from their 2010 World Skins Golf Tournament — a $1 million gift.
Soon after this announcement, Jeneece assembled a “Dream Team,” led by Bruce Williams, along with nine other community leaders, to fundraise for the remaining funds needed to build and start operating Jeneece Place. In December 2010, Jeneece met with the board of Vancouver Island’s Norgaard Foundation to share her dream and to explain why Jeneece Place was so desperately needed. At a press conference a few weeks later, the Norgaard Foundation announced they would donate $1 million to help build and operate Jeneece Place. At the same media event, Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island announced it would match the Norgaard Foundation’s $1 million gift.
Jeneece has spent hundreds of hours promoting Jeneece Place and its importance. As a result, many corporations, service clubs, charitable organizations, and individuals both young and old have become involved with the Jeneece Place project. Inspired by Jeneece’s dream, the community united to donate cash and in-kind gifts of every size. Inspired by Jeneece’s courage, bravery, and dedication, these donors gave over 95% of the $5.5 million goal in less than 14 months!
In October 2010, Jeneece was awarded the Order of British Columbia, the province’s highest award recognizing persons who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefiting the people of BC or elsewhere. Jeneece is the youngest person in history to receive this distinction. Jeneece was also inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame for her service to others and her dedication to fundraising, and she received the BC Community Achievement Award, the Victoria Community Youth Leadership Award, the Saanich Youth Award, and the Vancouver Island Association of Fundraising Professionals National Philanthropy Day Youth in Philanthropy award.
Would you like to make a gift in support of Jeneece Place? Support Jeneece’s dream.