A Saanich boy diagnosed with juvenile diabetes says he was initially left speechless when he won a major philanthropic award for his work in combating that disease.
“I didn’t say anything, because in my mind I was ‘Holy cow,’’’ said Andrei Marti.
Marti won the Youth in Philanthropy Award handed out during a ceremony at the Empress Hotel in Victoria as part of National Philanthropy Day organized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Vancouver Island Chapter.
“We were so surprised, so surprised,” said Andrei’s mother, Annelies Browne. “I think I screamed.”
Andrei, whom doctors diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) in August 2015, has been raising funds on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) by collecting recyclables. To date, he has collected about $3,000, a figure that includes his prize money of $500.
More than 300,000 Canadians have T1D, an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that allows humans to use and store sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates as an energy source.
People with T1D (which accounts for about five to 10 per cent of all cases of diabetes in Canada) face a host of medical complications that could lead to brain damage and death.
T1D generally develops in childhood and medical science continues to search for its cause(s) and cure.
Marti, however, had defiantly told doctors that medical science would find a cure during his lifetime, a point he reiterated during the award ceremony.
The names of Saanich residents and organizations also appeared in other award categories.
Team 4 Hope, a group of local volunteers that raises funds to support families with children diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer, won the Generosity of Spirit Award.
Lisa Hopkins, a spokesperson for the group, says it started six years ago to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her son Jordon surviving stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is now 17 after doctors had given him a 20 per cent chance of survival.
“It was a great honour to be nominated, and the room was full of these amazing people and children who all are doing great work for our community,” said Hopkins.
“I find public speaking very difficult, like a lot of people, and it is always emotional to speak about my son’s journey and the other families who we have helped, especially since most of them have passed away,” she said.
Saanich Baptist Church received a nomination in the category of Outstanding Philanthropic Service Club thanks to their work with Victoria Women’s Transition House.
Over the years, generally twice a year, the church sends a team of volunteers to assist with various cleaning and repair projects throughout the VWTH’s emergency shelter. The church has also taken on VWTH as one of their Christmas outreach charities. When they learned that the greatest need of the women and children who are staying at the shelter are gift cards to help them with purchasing items to assist them on getting a new start, they would deliver a hand-made wreath decorated with all the gift cards they were able to collect, with a total value of over $3,000 each time.