Sitting next to Chloë Williston, she radiates a certain selflessness that is hard to find.
The nine-year-old is happy, charming and is obviously excited when asked about one of her newest ventures.
For the past three years, Chloë and her seven-year-old sister Wren have been drawing anything from butterflies and birds playing hockey to giraffes fishing and a moose tightrope walking.
They print the drawings on cards as part of Chloë and Wren’s Cards for Kids with Cancer and the money raised is donated to help support kids with cancer.
“I was drawing them and we chose our favourites and we put them on cards,” she said. “I like drawing funny things like a blue moose on a tightrope. It’s not supposed to be realistic.”
Around Christmas time, the Smithers sisters start their project and can be found at most of the local craft fairs.
“I just wanted to help,” said Chloë.
For the Willistons, the project hits close to home.
When Wren was only two years old, she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma after doctors found a large tumour in her stomach.
“We went into the hospital for an ultrasound and the doctor diagnosed her . . . he felt her stomach and knew right away,” said their father Patrick.
“It’s certainly a life-changing experience. It had a profound affect on all four of us and it’s certainly the hardest thing that we’ve had to confront.”
That night, they flew to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver and Wren started chemotherapy two short days later.
“It was really scary for me because I was just turning four and I didn’t really understand what was going on,” said Chloë.
“It was scary when all of the sudden Wreny was in Vancouver and I was going to be leaving the next day for nine months.”
The family received financial assistance from the B.C. Childhood Cancer Parents Association (BCCCPA), a non-profit charitable society that helps families who have children who are struggling with cancer and who are struggling financially.
For the next year, the family would live in an apartment in a Vancouver home. Chloë would miss roughly 68 classes of her first year of kindergarden to be with her sister.
Chloë would spend a lot of time in the hospital visiting with her sister and other patients.
“I would spend a lot of time there and I played a lot in the playroom at the hospital,” said Chloë, who made many friends with many of the children who were also in the hospital.
“I think she wanted to help all those kids that we got to know,” said Patrick. “This was one way to support those families.”
This isn’t the first time the little girl with a big heart has wanted to help others.
Over the summer, she also cut off eight inches of her hair to donate to Wigs for Kids, a group that raises money to provide custom wigs for children with serious illnesses in Vancouver.
“Chloë is a pretty remarkable person. She grew up in quite a big hurry when we got down there and we had to ask a lot of her when she was very young,” said Patrick.
“She rose to the challenge immediately and she’s always been like that. We’re very proud of her.”
At the craft fairs, their mother Paula said people are very positive and encouraging of the duo’s cards.
Over the past few years, they’ve raised close to $3,000 to donate to the BCCCPA.
“We had tremendous community support,” said Paula.
“This is our way to help the kids that we saw down there at B.C. Children’s Hospital.”
Each year, their goal is to raise roughly $1,200 to give to the association or donate to families with kids with cancer.
This week marks five years since Wren was diagnosed and she is healthy and happy.