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The donor: Jillian Smigielski

The Gift: $4,000 and climbing

The Cause: Starlight Children's Foundation

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One day last year, 10-year-old Jillian Smigielski came home from a Girl Guide meeting thrilled about the craft she had learned.

"They taught us how to make bracelets," Jillian recalled from her home in Bowmanville, Ont., east of Toronto. "When I got home, I really liked them and I wanted to keep making them."

She also had another idea. Why not sell the bracelets and donate the money to the Starlight Children's Foundation, a charity that organizes programs to help bring some fun into the lives of sick children and their families? The foundation had already played a key role in the lives of Jillian and her eight-year-old brother, Ryan.

Ryan can't walk or talk because of a hypoglycemic attack he had one night four years ago. The attack occurs when blood sugar levels suddenly drop abnormally low. Ryan spent three weeks in a coma and suffered severe brain damage as a result. Jillian, Ryan and their parents, Kelly and Mark Smigielski, have participated in several Starlight programs including a trip to Disney World with Ryan.

"Starlight means so much to us and this is my way of saying thank you," Jillian said. "They make a life so much fun."

Jillian began making thousands of bracelets, calling them Ryan's Smile because each one includes a bead with a big smile. She sold them to friends, family and at several craft shows. She has raised $4,000 so far and hopes to keep selling the bracelets.

She and her family have also entered a Ryan's Smile team at the foundation's annual Walk for Smiles this September in Toronto and they hope to raise $2,000.

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Jillian has won many accolades for her fundraising efforts, including a Queen's Diamond Jubilee award. But she said the biggest thrill has been the joy it has given her brother. That, she said, "has been pretty cool."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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