Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

One sick girl's special lesson in courage

Ten-year-old refused to let cancer slow her down

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Ylinh Lee is a very, very sick little girl. She is also an exceptional little girl for whom the word remarkable doesn't even begin to cover it.


"If you'd met her before (she got cancer), she'd strike you as the kind of kid who could do anything she put her mind to," said dad Ryan on Sunday afternoon in the family's Waverley Heights home, as Ylinh slept beside him.

Ylinh last attended her Grade 5 class at R.H.G. Bonnycastle School a month ago.

That's about the time the 10-year-old last walked -- insisting, said mother Duong -- she take part in the popcorn sale that Ylinh and her classmates had organized at the Kenaston Walmart.

Ylinh came to Bonnycastle from Vancouver at the start of her Grade 3 year. In April of that year, she was diagnosed with cancer.

A year later, last April, after her family thought Ylinh had overcome the disease, it reappeared, said Ryan.

So what did Ylinh do?

'Ylinh has also brought our community closer together'

-- Pembina Trails School Division spokesman

She started raising money for CancerCare Manitoba, and getting her classmates and local businesses involved.

So far, they've raised $8,000 and counting.

"She wanted to have a lemonade stand out on the street here. She went, 'We can have a lemonade stand and a bake sale, too,' " said Duong.

Next step was talking to Bonnycastle school counsellor Michelle Gisiger, and soon Ylinh and the Bonnycastle kids were selling Popsicles at Walmart.

"Walmart ended up donating the Popsicles," said Ryan.

"They made $1,373," said Duong.

Later, there was an equally successful hotdog sale, and then, her dad said, "The school said, 'Do you want to have a popcorn sale?' Ylinh was like two hands up."

"They end up, they sold $2,150 and Walmart matched," Duong said.

Her parents want Ylinh remembered the way she was that day at the popcorn sale, beaming, even though she was really too sick to have helped out.

"It was hard for her, but she wanted to be there," Ryan said.

"This is the last time she can walk around," Duong said.

People at CancerCare asked Ylinh one time if she wanted to maybe put the money towards some form of children's entertainment area. No, Ylinh insisted, it's to go into medical research.

Duong recalled that before Ylinh was diagnosed with cancer, her daughter wanted to be a marine biologist.

Since then, Ryan said, her career goals changed. "She wanted to be an oncologist. She always wanted to help and raise money for CancerCare."

Dad said Ylinh was welcomed at Bonnycastle when they moved from Vancouver: "She's easy to like, very charming and outgoing."

An official with Pembina Trails School Division praised how Ylinh brought the community together.

"She has raised about $8,000, which is amazing, but she has also done something else that might even be more amazing. Ylinh has also brought our community closer together," said the division spokesman.

"One child emptied his piggy bank and brought in his own money so he could be part of the hotdog lunch. Grades 4 and 5 students have volunteered their time to sell popcorn. Staff members at the school have donated time and money, sometimes matching their student donations -- but the community has extended well beyond the school. Businesses in the area have also supported this little girl's dream," said the official.

Ylinh has been reading voraciously, and shelves in her family's living room are packed with books she's read. Diary of A Wimpy Kid is a favourite, along with all things Archie.

"She was sick, she couldn't go anywhere, she was reading one book after another," said dad.

Lately, mom said, Ylinh's headaches have become too bad for her to read, so mom has been reading a batch of new favourites, the Dear Dumb Diary collection.

And there have been visits from her friends at Bonnycastle School.

Ylinh hasn't planned any more fundraisers, but mom and dad said anyone can continue what she started by making donations to CancerCare Manitoba through Bonnycastle School in Ylinh's honour.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 2, 2013 B1

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