Generosity overflows for Jeneece Place

Jeneece Place, a home away from home for Vancouver Island families with sick children, opened at Victoria General Hospital on the weekend.

Jeneece Edroff and Abigail McCorquodale

Jeneece Edroff and Abigail McCorquodale

When her daughter was born without an esophagus, Brenda McCorquodale spent 100 days living in Victoria General Hospital, rarely leaving her newborn’s side.

During her high-risk pregnancy, the Port Hardy mom was required to stay near VGH and couch surfed at friends’ homes in Victoria. When Abigail was born, McCorquodale slept on cots or chairs near the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

“I’d run across the street to the corner store to buy food,” she recalled. “Finding a place to have a shower was tough, it was a tough time. The hospital staff were amazing and did what they could.”

McCorquodale and Abigail, now six years old and an energetic little girl, are a testament to the need for a home away from home for families with sick kids.

On Saturday, the McCorquodales joined Jeneece Edroff for the official opening of Jeneece Place at VGH.

The 10-bedroom house has about everything a worried family could want — a stocked communal kitchen and dining room, a place for kids to play, a vast media room, while being only a few steps from the hospital, for $25 per night.

“Families need a place to stay in Victoria, and a hotel is too expensive,” said Edroff, who celebrated her 18th birthday on Friday, one day before the grand opening. “Family is important, especially when a child is in hospital. This place is perfect.”

McCorquodale said Jeneece Place would have been welcome relief six years ago. But she’s happy future Island families — it’s expected 95 per cent of people who will stay at Jeneece Place live north of the Malahat — will have one less worry on their hands.

“Having a play room anticipates things well. (Brothers or sisters) can only spend so much time in a hospital,” McCorquodale said. “Having a place to play and relax is excellent.”

Decorated in First Nations art and art donated by the community, inspiration and thoughtful design pepper Jeneece Place, from the animal shapes that mark the rooms, to the glass art installation at the front door, offering “hope, strength, family and love.”

The house, operated by the Queen Alexandra Foundation, aimed to raise $5.5 million to cover construction costs and 10 years of operating funds — it raised $6.5 million through thousands of individual donations. The building itself came in 10 per cent under budget and received $1.1 million in in-kind donations.

“I think it turned out better than we could have dreamed. So many families will get such better care, the stress is off them,” said Angie Edroff, Jeneece’s mom.

Angie said the donation from Telus Skins golf game in 2010 brought the project and the issue to the forefront, and helped launch a cascade of donations.

“I thought at that point she was going to do it,” Angie said. “When she gets an idea in her head, there is no stopping her. ‘No’ doesn’t exist for Jeneece.”

Edroff plans to graduate from Claremont secondary this June, but the “penny girl” still lives every day with neurofibromatosis, a condition where tumours grow on nerve pathways. She may need more surgeries soon.

“I want to help the community a lot more,” Edroff said. “I want to find a new project I can help with.”

For more on Jeneece Place, see  www.jeneeceplace.org.