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Our Community: Brother of girl who died of rare disease asks people to do good in her honour

“I want my sister’s spirit to live on, inspiring the ­people she loved and those she never got the chance to meet,” says Felix Townsin.
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Felix Townsin, left, visits his sister Lexi in Victoria General Hospital in 2016. Lexi died from Blau syndrome, a rare inflammatory disorder, and Felix has launched a website to share her story and to collect stories of goodwill, to inspire others to perform good deeds. PHOTO VIA TOWNSIN FAMILY

With the help of his parents, an 11-year-old Esquimalt boy has launched a website that not only celebrates his sister’s legacy but asks people to do something positive for the world in her honour.

Alexandra (Lexi) Townsin lost her life to a rare disease called Blau syndrome two years ago, just two months shy of her ­seventh birthday. Blau syndrome is an inflammatory disorder that usually ­manifests in children before the age of four. It affects fewer than one in a million ­children. There is currently no cure.

To mark her birthday last month, her brother Felix launched a website.

“I started this website because I want my sister’s spirit to live on, inspiring the ­people she loved and those she never got the chance to meet,” said Felix.

“Do you wish for a world with less ­suffering? A world with more kindness, and generosity? So did Lexi.”

Other ways the family is honouring Lexi’s legacy include founding the Cure Blau Syndrome Foundation, running Lexi’s Little Leaders, a program enabling youth with big ideas to get access to the resources they need to make their visions come true, and facilitating Grief Retreat, an ­opportunity for families to get away and grieve together while enduring ­heartbreaking loss.

“Life is short, and Lexi’s was much shorter than it should have been, but the love she put into the world doesn’t ­disappear — it is still growing,” said Troy Townsin, their father.

“Felix had this amazing idea that people who didn’t even know Lexi might be able to celebrate her and make the world a ­better place at the same time.

“Participating is so easy — just do ­something good and then let us know about it — you become one of Lexi’s Legends and we can let Felix know how his sister’s legacy is impacting the world.”

Esquimalt’s food drive tops donations target

The Township of Esquimalt’s annual food drive, held this past holiday season, saw residents donating more than 1,400 kilograms of food and much-needed provisions to the Esquimalt Neighbourhood House.

This was the 22nd year of the annual holiday giving campaign, which was organized by township and CUPE staff. It saw residents dropping off non-perishable foods at the township’s facilities between Nov. 24 and Dec. 21. Residents could also have their donations picked up as part of their garbage pick-up service. Food items in labelled bags were picked up by a volunteer in a separate vehicle.

Mary Lynn McKenna, executive director for Esquimalt Neighbourhood House, said the Township of Esquimalt’s annual food drive is an essential way for Esquimalt Neighbourhood House to restock its emergency food cupboard every year. “Normally, the township’s annual food drive allows Esquimalt Neighbourhood House to have non-perishable food on hand for the short-term food needs of community members until at least early fall every year.”

Esquimalt residents typically donate approximately 1,100 kilograms per year. This year exceeded that amount with township and CUPE staff delivering a total of three van loads (approximately 1,400 kilograms) of not only food but household supplies like diapers and pet food to the non-profit.

Esquimalt Neighbourhood House provides support services to children, youth, adults, families and seniors.

Girls inspire more giving toward leukemia research

A grassroots fundraiser by two young girls to raise donations for leukemia research has touched many hearts since their plea went public a month ago, raising more than $15,500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

Bailey Paauwe and Ella McPherson, two Grade 4 students at Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Nanaimo, got together to create the fundraiser after Paauwe’s stepfather was recently diagnosed with leukemia.

In a video posted on the GoFundMe site on Dec. 9, Paauwe pledged to shave her head and McPherson promised to cut her hair short and donate it to cancer victims if they hit their $2,500 goal.

The fundraiser took off, raising $6,500 in less than 20 hours. The next day, the girls decided to increase their goal to $10,000 — and received more than $15,500 before the end of the campaign on Dec. 17.

UVic associate professor honoured for marine work

An associate professor at the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies has received the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for her new approaches to marine conservation.

Natalie Ban is the first person in UVic’s Faculty of Social Sciences to receive this prestigious award. She lists marine conservation, marine protected areas, marine spatial planning, marine ethnoecology, fisheries and community-engaged research as her areas of expertise.

Her research seeks to incorporate changing environmental patterns and threats, including climate change, into marine conservation practices and planning. Her team’s research led to improved consideration of climate change in Marine Protected Area planning in the Pacific Ocean.

“This fellowship is an amazing opportunity to focus on advancing my team’s research partnerships and opportunities,” Ban says. “It allows me to spend more time thinking creatively, building relationships and co-creating research that can address important marine conservation issues.”

Ban says she collaborates with communities, including the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, made up of the Wuikinuxv, Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Heiltsuk Nations, and hopes that considering both Indigenous knowledge and Western science — and interweaving them when appropriate — will help address modern fishery problems and inequities in fisheries management.

Every year, NSERC awards up to six Steacie Fellowships that are held for a two-year period. Fellows are relieved of teaching and administrative duties so they can devote all their time and energy to research.

The E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship is the highest honour bestowed on early-career science and engineering professors by NSERC. Established in 1965, the fellowships are awarded annually to outstanding and highly promising faculty members across all science and engineering fields.

Mosaic Forest team boosts efforts to help Island’s needy

Mosaic Forest Management has expanded its Season of Giving community and food program in 2021, donating $37,000 to more than 20 Vancouver Island and coastal communities in December.

Launched in 2020, the program supports local organizations, providing access to nutritious food for those in need. The program dispersed $30,000 to five Vancouver Island community and food programs at that time.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has put added pressure on families who struggle to access healthy and affordable food,” said Jeff Zweig, president and CEO. “Our annual Season of Giving campaign provides support to organizations that are doing the important work of reaching those who rely on local food organizations to help feed their families.”

Recipients include the Alberni District Secondary School Breakfast Club, a volunteer-run program that offers students grab-and-go food stations at Alberni District Secondary School and the Learning Centre.

“Donations, like the one made by Mosaic, go towards purchasing food items for over 400 students, five days a week,” says Melody Burton, Alberni District Secondary School Breakfast Club co-ordinator.

Other recipients include: Cowichan Valley Basket Society, Lake Cowichan 50+ Activity Centre, Cowichan Valley School District 79 through Nourish Cowichan Society, Sooke Meals on Wheels, Sooke and Port Renfrew Food Banks through Sooke Food Bank Society, Knights of Columbus Community Christmas Hamper Fun, Port Alberni Christmas Hamper (Community and Family Service, Port Alberni) through The Salvation Army, Port Alberni Shelter Society, Powell River Food Bank, Quadra Food Bank through Quadra Island Recreation Society, Food Bank on the Edge, Comox Valley Food Bank, The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive and Old Massett - Christmas Hamper Program. They will also fund school lunch programs at Lake Cowichan School, Palsson School, School District 72 and Port Hardy Secondary School.

parrais@timescolonist.com