The day my daughter Daisy was born, her three-year-old brother Sam held her in his arms. The day Daisy’s friend Kylee was born, her three-year-old sister Kayla could not do the same.
Kylee was born with a life-threatening condition called transposition of the great arteries and had to be flown to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for emergency open heart surgery. Once the major operation was a success, she was in Kayla’s arms all the time.
Despite such a terrifying and traumatic introduction to the world, Kylee is now 10 years old and is as happy and healthy as any parent could ever hope.
Grateful to the medical team for saving her life, she and her older sister raised money for the BC Children’s Hospital three years ago by selling stones they hand-painted while camping.
Since then, they’ve sold over a thousand beautifully decorated rocks at campgrounds, in their neighbourhood, at craft fairs and even art shows.
This Valentine’s Day, they’ll be setting up their “Charity Rocks” table and selling their hearts out at the Kelowna General Hospital to raise money for its new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre.
“They’ve supported a variety of charities over the years,” their mother said. “And they’ve always insisted on donating 100% of the proceeds. They won’t even let me use a small portion for supplies.”
When asked who their idol is, their answer isn’t a recognizable celebrity we might see in the tabloids, such as Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Their idol is Spencer West, a Toronto man who has no legs, yet has accomplished incredible feats such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on his hands to raise money for Free the Children, a charity that builds schools and water systems for kids in third world countries.
An author and motivational speaker, Spencer West has presented at the youth empowerment event “We Day” for years, and that’s where the sisters first saw him. For three years in a row they have listened to him share inspiring life lessons, and were thrilled to meet him in person when they participated in a fundraising hike up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver last summer. They believe, like he does, that anyone can overcome their obstacles and become a force for positive change in the world.
For them, their biggest obstacle might be their exceedingly shy personalities, which has caused them to miss out on opportunities reserved for the more extroverted students at school.
But whenever they have the opportunity to raise money for charity, they have no problem coming out of their shells temporarily — proving the theory that introverts should never be underestimated.
“Painting is fun,” Kylee said. “But talking to people and selling the rocks is our favourite part.”
Driven to help those in need, the artistic duo plan to continue giving back in some form or another, fully committed to helping others while not limiting themselves.
The girls don’t place a set price on their waterproofed creations, but they gladly accept donations. They also take custom orders and are excited about their expanding clientele.
“The more we raise, the more we donate,” Kayla said. “As we get older and gain experience, we plan to help to a greater extent.”
With loving hearts as big as theirs, I have no doubt these talented sisters will.