Youngster gives back to charity that helped her cope with disease

Middle school student collecting bottles, coins for Variety on Jan. 7

Mackenzie Valgardson with a couple of the early donations to her annual winter bottle drive at Sidney elementary school. The Sidney youngster fundraises to give back to the children’s charity that helped her and a little-known non-profit camp for kids just like her.

Mackenzie Valgardson will start her year with her annual bottle drive and offer Sidney a new social event.

The North Saanich middle school student gathers returnables twice a year for Variety the Children’s Charity. Her reason is simple.

“They helped me so I want to help them.”

The 11-year-old Sidney girl has erythropoietic protophotophyria – she is allergic to sunlight and UV rays. Sunlight and even the light emitted from regular light bulbs give Mackenzie blisters on her skin and can cause severe internal damage. Variety funded special windows for the Valgardson home and special clothing that protects her from the light – allowing her to enjoy daylight.

She’s holding yet another coin and bottle drive on Saturday, Jan. 7 at Sidney elementary school, where she first started her fundraising gigs more than five years ago. Donations can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Valgardson also fundraises for a more personal project each year on the side. She likes to hang out with other kids just like her at Camp Sundown in New York State.

“Everyone has the same allergy as me,” she said. “We go horseback riding and karting … at night.”

The unique night camp gathers families and scientists from around the globe to share support, recreation, information and friendship under the safety of the stars.

This year the Valgardson family is working toward a new fundraising event. The Give a Kid a Chance silent auction will fundraise for Variety and Camp Sundown.

The event includes the auction, food and live local music at the Mary Winspear Centre on Jan. 28 from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door or by calling 250-655-2654.

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