UPDATE: Tyra Mackeeman is 2016 Easter Seals ambassador

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 29, 2016

Rina Mackeeman, left, mother of Tyra Mackeeman gives her daughter a hug as Tyra is introduced a the 2016 Easter Seals ambassador


2016 Easter Seals campaign amassador announced during the program's official launch

Tyra Mackeeman breezed through her first task as Easter Seals ambassador.

The 10-year-old daughter of Rina Mackeeman and Jeff Kilbride of Vernon River answered questions from reporters Monday with calm and charm.

Tyra was officially announced as the 2016 ambassador of the Easter Seals campaign that will take her across the province, most notably as the star of Tim Horton's Ambassador School Tour.

She is thrilled to be playing a key role in raising money to help people.

Last year's campaign raised just over $115,000 to help enhance the quality of life, self-esteem and self-determination of Islanders living with disabilities by providing programs and support.

INFOBOX: Community support

Tyra has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue.

The tumors are usually noncancerous but sometimes can become cancerous. Symptoms are often mild.

However, complications of neurofibromatosis can include hearing loss, learning impairment, heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) problems, loss of vision and severe pain.

Rina says her daughter has been "very lucky'' with her condition to date, but there are still hurdles.

Tyra has learning disabilities. She has her own individual learning plan at school in Vernon River.

She is not on any medication, but she has an occupational therapist and a speech therapist. She gets phantom pains in her body and intolerable itching.

Rina says her daughter's speech has improved considerably as was evident when Tyra talked about her life and her condition with the media.

"She has been working really hard,'' says Rina.

"Just in the last two years she has grown up so much.''

Tyra, notes mom, was more than a bit happy to learn she would be the Easter Seals ambassador on P.E.I. this year.

"She's pretty excited,'' she says.     

"She has been a little bit nervous.''

The older sister of four-year-old Meisha, Tyra loves dancing, shopping, playing video games and all kinds of music.

The annual campaign is a franchised project of the Charlottetown Rotary Club supported by Rotary clubs in Summerside and Montague.

Campaign co-chairs Regan Lewis and Paul Crant encourage Islanders to attend fundraising events that will be held across the province.

"We have a wide array of activities planned for this year, from community barbecues to hockey games, not to mention our annual Tim Horton's Ambassador School Tour and our Paper Egg Campaign in partnership with Lawtons Drugs and other P.E.I. retailers,'' says Lewis.

 For more information, visit www.eastersealspei.org.


Community support

The P.E.I. Easter Seals Society has provided financial assistance to support programs with many worthy groups, including the following:

- P.E.I. Cerebral Palsy Association;

- Camp Gencheff;

- Stars for Life Foundation for Autism;

- P.E.I. Rehabilitation Council;

- Joy Riders;

- P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities.