When Jeneece Edroff was seven years old and raised $164 to support Variety – The Children’s Charity through a penny drive at Northridge elementary, her mother thought the fundraising effort was cute.
“I was proud that she was even able to do that,” Angie Edroff said. “But to see where she’s come from to where she’s arrived at today – those are two very different perspectives.”
Her daughter, diagnosed at the age of three with neurofibromatosis – a disease which causes tumours to grow on nerve roots of her spine – has gone from raising $27,000 in her second year with Variety to garnering millions for a range of causes, including the B.C. Neurofibromatosis Foundation and Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan. In 2009, Jeneece launched her dream project, Jeneece Place, a home-away-from-home for children (and their families) who require medical treatment in Victoria.
The campaign led to her receipt of a 2012 Changing Our World/Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, announced by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Nov. 15. Jeneece will be recognized this spring in Vancouver at the association’s International Conference on Fundraising, the largest gathering of fundraisers in the world.
“When I found out, I was absolutely astounded,” Jeneece said. “I didn’t expect to win that huge award. It was out of the blue. It made my day.”
“It’s recognition for her – spreading the word that we need to fix some things in our own backyard sometimes,” Angie added. “She’s found a way to do that quite well and I think that’s what we’re both quite proud of.”
Now in Grade 12 at Claremont secondary school, Jeneece continues to travel to Vancouver for treatment. This year, she has endured two surgeries to remove tumours that were in the process of metastasizing from benign to malignant, as well as one knee surgery. She begins another round of chemotherapy this week.
“Her fundraising has given her a way to redirect some of that pain that she feels and some of her worries into something else which is much more positive,” Angie said.
Ninety-five per cent of the $5.5 million needed to construct Jeneece Place was raised in just 14 months, with the 17-year-old clocking hundreds of hours toward the effort. The facility is slated to open adjacent to Victoria General Hospital on Jan. 20 – Jeneece’s birthday.
“I’m so glad it’s almost built because as soon as those doors open we’re going to be (helping) families,” Jeneece said. “Every time I see a helicopter, I’m like, ‘That’s a family that needs somewhere to stay. Right now there’s nowhere to stay.”
Andrew Watt, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals calls Jeneece a reminder that everyone, regardless of circumstance, can be a philanthropist and make an impact.
“If her story was just limited to overcoming (neurofibromatosis) and being able to walk, it would have been amazing,” Watt said in a media release. “But the astounding heights she has reached in bringing people together and raising funds – generating millions of dollars before the age of 18 – is phenomenal.”
Jane Bowers, manager of special events for the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children, nominated Jeneece for the award after meeting “the little dynamo” at the onset of the Jeneece Place project and collaborating ever since.
“We’re grateful and inspired by everything that she does,” Bowers said.
Help fill the house
The Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children, leaders of the Jeneece Place campaign, have registered the house at The Bay stores on Vancouver Island. Customers may now purchase household items needed to furnish and run the space – from flatware to ironing boards – at all Island locations or online by searching for Jeneece Place under the Bay Gift Registry at Hbc.com.