At age 15, Chelsea Spencer stepped on a piece of broken glass and got a cut on her foot. No matter what, it didn't seem to heal.
Eventually, Chelsea and her mother, Sheela Vincent, got the bad news. Testing had shown that Chelsea had a squamous-cell carcinoma, a type of cancer.
Even faced with an amputation in 2006, the teenager didn't let it stop her.
"She was really positive, she was going to be like Terry Fox," said Sheela.
Her early life had already prepared Chelsea for serious health problems. Born with Ommen Syndrome, she didn't come home from the hospital until age two, and needed a bone marrow transplant and hearing aids.
Despite her brave face, nothing could stop the cancer's progress.
After a meeting with a doctor, Chelsea hadn't quite understood what he was saying, because of her limited hearing.
"I had to tell her that she was going to die," said Sheela.
In 2007, Chelsea passed away.
Her mother said that before she died, her daughter told her she would drop the occasional "penny from heaven" to let her mom and family know she was still around.
And Sheela said she continues to find the coins in unexpected places.
"Sometimes they just arrive out of nowhere," she said.
Now Sheela is putting those pennies - and tens of thousands more - to good use.
Chelsea's Pennies is a fundraiser for Camp Goodtimes, the camp run by the Canadian Cancer Society. Located just over the river in Maple Ridge on a mountain lake, it's the only facility of its kind in the province, equipped to give kids with cancer, or in recovery, a real summer camp experience.
"Chelsea loved Camp Goodtimes so much," said Sheela.
Her daughter attended for the first time at the age of six, and went for seven years running.
Her siblings closest in age, Max, Rowan, and Molly all went along as well, and have now taken on roles as volunteer leaders there.
Chelsea would come home with her arms thick with friendship bracelets, with stories of fun events and bursting with camp songs, said Sheela.
She could realize that she was not the only person without hair, and her siblings could connect with other children who had brothers or sisters with cancer.
So Sheela decided to aim as many pennies as she could at the camp, which provides all its services to children free of charge.
Last year, Sheela collected almost $3,000 in pennies and other small donations from friends and family, and she's hoping her second year beats that.
HSBC in Langley is helping out, and will accept donations of jars or sacks of pennies for the charity all the way through this year, until the end of December.
A penny is an easy thing to donate, Sheela noted.
"People are already strapped," she said.
But a little pocket change can go a long way - especially since the government is phasing out the penny early next year. Now is the time to put those pennies to work, Sheela said.
"It's just sitting in their piggy bank," she said.
For more information or to donate, go to an HSBC branch, or visit chelseaspennies.wix.com/ home or www.facebook. com/ChelseasPennies.
@ Copyright 2013