When Elizabeth Tichelman first started fundraising for breast cancer research and support, she did so with one person in mind – her grandma.
Therese Tichelman had already been battling the disease for 15 years when Elizabeth requested guests to her ninth birthday make a donation to the cause instead of purchasing a present.
“I knew I wanted to do that for my grandma. I didn’t care about my gifts, I just really wanted to help my grandma,” Elizabeth, now 13, said. “My mom and dad carefully explained to me I might not be able to save my nana, but I could help create a future without breast cancer.”
The party generated more than $1,000, which Tichelman personally presented to the Vancouver cancer clinic that treated her grandmother.
Sadly, Therese Tichelman died two years later.
Elizabeth found inspiration to act once again when her aunt, Leslieann Tichelman, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
For Elizabeth’s 13th birthday, she made the same request from party guests – donations instead of gifts – and brought in $1,900, which she donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in honour of her aunt.
Elizabeth said Leslieann was brought to tears when she learned what her niece had done.
“She was so incredibly happy.”
While both efforts fundraised a considerable amount for the foundation, Elizabeth was to hand over her largest contribution yet this week.
After teaming up with White Rock boutique owner Raz Vasanji to host a fashion show benefit last month, Elizabeth ended up with $3,000 to donate.
The May 26 event was held at Boutique Vasanji – where Elizabeth browses every week after her nearby trumpet lesson – and drew more than 100 people.
Elizabeth spoke at the fundraiser, and recruited friends and school acquaintances to serve as models for the fashion show. She said her brother, 11-year-old Richard Tichelman, sang Daughters by John Mayer for the crowd, and reduced many to tears.
Elizabeth’s mother said local businesses happily provided items for raffle prizes, Vasanji donated 20 per cent of weekend sales and attendants were quick to dip into their pockets for the cause.
“People are overwhelmed by a young person taking the initiative that they want to give more,” Tracy Tichelman said, noting most people had been touched by the disease. “Everyone in that room was somehow connected by someone who has been affected by cancer.”
Tracy noted that her daughter’s benevolence doesn’t end with cancer fundraising – she also volunteers at a seniors home, where she visits with residents.
“Elizabeth likes to help people,” she said.
And the community is likely to hear more from the Grade 8 Elgin Park Secondary student.
“I definitely know for a fact that I will fundraise again for breast cancer,” Elizabeth said. “After you feel you’ve done something good, you feel so good about yourself.
“I’ve made someone else’s life better.”