Jeneece Edroff’s recent 21st birthday lunch came courtesy of the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island at her favourite restaurant, the Med Grill.
Foundation officials and Edroff have a close relationship that blossomed during the creation of Jeneece Place, a $5.5-million, 10-room venue envisioned by Edroff as “a home away from home” for families with children being treated at Victoria General Hospital and other local medical facilities.
Already a member of the Order of B.C. and a member of the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, Edroff has also recently received word that she was a runner-up for the Queen’s Young Leader Award. It goes to 18- to 29-year-olds in the Commonwealth who are leaders in their communities. She was grateful to be considered.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to find that out.”
Edroff’s fundraising efforts over the years have made her a familiar face to Greater Victoria residents.
She launched a penny drive as a confident seven-year-old to help Variety — The Children’s Charity as a thank-you after Variety provided her with a back brace, a need arising from a rare genetic disorder, neurofibromatosis.
The first penny drive raised $164, but that was just the beginning. Over the course of eight years, she raised more than $1.5 million for Variety.
Her vision for Jeneece Place developed after that. Ground was broken on the project in 2011, and it opened three years ago on Edroff’s birthday. She was the driving force behind every aspect of the facility that bears her name.
People staying at Jeneece Place, which is owned and operated by the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, can make use of its games room, laundry room, communal kitchen and outdoor play area. Nine staff and a large group of volunteers keep things rolling, but making the residence homey is a task happily taken on by Edroff, her parents, Angie and Denis, and older brother, Nick.
“She and her family do a lot at the house,” said Linda Hughes, the foundation’s president and CEO. “They cook and serve dinners at special times of year. They’ll make a family dinner at Thanksgiving. At Christmas they put together gift baskets.”
Hughes said Edroff is as committed as ever to the foundation and to spreading the word about Jeneece Place, which hosted 733 families in its three years. The families have come from across Vancouver Island and beyond, particularly when their children have needed the specialized pediatric care the hospital provides.
“Whenever we ask her to meet somebody or do a tour of the house, speak to someone about how it started, she always accommodates us. She’ll show up weekends, evenings, wherever it is. She’ll come and help.”
Edroff is recently back from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where she underwent a battery of tests. Neurofibromatosis causes painful tumours on nerve tissue, and she has had numerous surgeries and chemotherapy sessions.
Despite the trip, she managed to finish a food- and customer-service course at Camosun College in December, learning kitchen skills and getting work experience.
Next on her to-do list could be a second Jeneece Place, possibly in Nanaimo. She hints there is “something else in the works,” but notes it is still in the discussion stage.
Edroff is frequently approached by members of the public, but shrugs off the attention.
“It’s just a natural thing to me now,” she said. “You just get used to it and you just realize that they’re proud of what I’m doing.”
• The foundation continues to accept donations for the $350,000 annual operating cost for Jeneece Place. For more information, call 250-519-6977 or go to childrenshealthvi.org.