Shayhan’s promenade dress

Thanks to the generosity and good will of the community and family, Shayhan LeBlanc had a very special graduation.

  • Aug. 19, 2015 2:00 p.m.

Shayhan LeBlanc went to her graduation and the ball resplendent in a perfect-fit dress thanks to a community of caring people.

Camille LeBlanc was delivered the news that her two-month old baby Shayhan Oner had multiple disabilities. Diagnosed blind, with cerebral palsy and mincrocephally (tiny brian which sends mixed messaged to her body.) And along with these challenges she also suffered from epilepsy with grand mal seizures, severe acid reflux and scoliosis.

“They originally told me her prognosis was she wouldn’t live past about a year and they suggested she be put into the system – just to give up on her,” Camille said.

“But my baby defied the odds from the very beginning. We as a family were determined to keep her alive with love and a lot of hope.”

With stalwart family support and too many trips to count to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Shayhan not only survived, she thrived on the love and support that surrounded her.

This year, 18-year-old Shyhan proudly graduated with her Correlieu class and Camille and her family couldn’t have been more proud and happy.

They were determined to give Shayhan the same experience as every other graduate.

“I approached Brian Cullinane and Denis Hawkins-Bogle and they said no matter what it took they would get Shayhan on the stage,” Camille said.

But the task wasn’t without it’s hurdles. The first proved almost the most insurmountable. Finding a dress for Shayhan to wear for the promenade.

Her mother ordered three dresses from a reputable online store but as grad drew nearer and nearer, none arrived. Their mail lady, Karen Hall, became engaged in the process, each day more devastated when she couldn’t produce the much-anticipated grad gown.

Karen became so concerned she spoke to her family members Mike and Donna Davis about their daughter Quinn’s grad gown from three years previous to see if it was available. Although Quinn now lived in Vernon, they found out she’d lent the dress to a friend in Quesnel. Mike tracked it down and delivered the beautiful purple dress (one of Shayhan’s favourite colours) to Camille’s front door, the day before grad. It fit Shayhan like a glove.

“We had lost hope of finding a dress, then it all fell into place,” Camille said.

“The dress fit her perfectly, even accommodating the wheelchair.”

During the cap and gown ceremonies there was concern the heat and commotion of the event might send Shayhan into seizures so she was allowed to be the first up the seven stairs, thanks to the assistance of four cousins who carried the chair up the stairs, enabling her to cross the stage and receive her high school dogwood.

The next night, Shayhan was resplendent in her beautiful purple gown during the promenade.

However, this wasn’t the first time the community has come together for this miracle girl.

Camille and her daughter live with Camille’s parents in a small home and as Shayhan grew, the home became more and more inadequate for her needs. About eight years ago, Camille said they were contemplating placing her in a residential facility but first they looked into building a dedicated room for Shayhan.

“The first estimate was $88,000 for a specially-designed room that would meet Shayhan’s requirements but that was financially out of our family’s reach. We started looking for grants to help build this room,” Camille said.

“We began a list of 33 possible sources and the only foundations that came through were the Vancouver and Victoria Foundations with $22,000. A long way from what was needed.”

However, after a story in the Cariboo Observer, Ed and Kim Dusoswa and their construction crew said, “let’s do this.”

And thanks to help from Camille’s brother Kyle LeBlanc, electrical, Kevin O’Flynn, roofing, Kevin McLean, tree removal, Steve Huska for the excavating and ground work, Dunkley providing lumber, Rona and Eagle helping with figures and fittings, United Concrete with the foundation and PG Surg providing all the medical equipment the room was completed. Children’s Choice Charity has also helped fund a specialty chair for Shayhan.

“This room and all the other equipment that Shayhan needs wouldn’t have happened without Ed and his crew and an amazing community,” Camille said.

Camille and her family know they must live each day to the fullest – another day isn’t guaranteed.

“With her medical problems she could be gone in a heart beat, but regardless of the trials and tribulations we wouldn’t change a thing. Shayhan is such joy to be around and her disposition is so sweet and sunny. She has so many friends who adore her and drop by often.”

Although she’s now an official graduate, Camille is hoping Shayhan will be allowed to spend three days a week in the school system to keep up her socializing and improve her quality of life.

“At some point difficult decisions may have to be made so the more Shyhan adjusts the better.”

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