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A tea party for a special young lady

Thursday, 10 October 2013. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

A tea party for a special young lady

Kylie McMaster of Pincher Creek was princess for a day thanks to Jenny Vandersteen of Mill Canyon Photography.


A tea party for a special young lady

By Shannon Robin

Kylie McMaster of Pincher Creek was treated to a vintage tea party photo shoot this weekend, thanks to local photographer Jenny Vandersteen.

Over three days, almost 30 young lasses and lads visited Jenny’s outdoor set in the Gladstone Valley area. They had beautiful smiles and good spirits despite high winds and a nip in the air.

Kylie came out with her whole family – her parents, Holly and Claire, and brother, Connor.

Kylie had her hair styled and her choice of fancy dresses and accessories to wear.

Like the rest of the boys, Connor was drawn to Jacques Daignault’s shiny 1930 Hudson car, which added a masculine touch amid the ruffles and bows.

“The setup was very cool,” Jenny says. “It was a little more boy-friendly than the first tea party was in June.”

Kylie went along with everything with a smile, resulting in a series of photos her family will treasure.

“Jenny was nice enough to let Connor come too, which made Kylie happy,” Holly says. If anyone can make Kylie smile, it’s Connor.

Jenny came up with the idea of using tea party sets as fundraisers last spring. She was looking for a way to turn a photo session into something with even more meaning for everyone involved.

The first tea party featured Ellie Weisshaar, who has the rare genetic disorder Idic15. Jenny’s plan was to raise awareness of Ellie’s condition and funds for Idic15 research. Her plan was a successful one in both respects, complete with a donation of almost $500 to Idic15 Canada.

Ellie’s mom, Lachlan Rempel, suggested Kylie as a great choice for the second tea party. The wheels were set in motion and Jenny sent a message to Kylie’s mom, Holly, through Facebook.

Holly was surprised by the neat opportunity being offered to her daughter.

“Holly was interested right away and very excited about it,” Jenny says.

Jenny learned that Kylie has Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, one of the most severe forms of epilepsy. Through her campaign, more people are now aware of the challenges of LGS and how it affects the McMaster family.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Jenny says. “You have all these other kids who have everything perfect and easy, and yet Kylie seems twice as happy as them.”

Six-year-old Kylie suffers from seizures due to LGS. At times, cluster seizures have numbered 800 or more in a day. Holly and Claire have kept busy learning about the syndrome since Kylie’s diagnosis in 2012, and watch over her carefully.

In May, Kylie spent five days at the children’s hospital in Calgary to undergo EEG screening. She had been eating little and her doctors needed to come up with new options. Holly says proof of the seizures was needed to help the medical team determine their next move. For five days, Kylie was seizure-free, which stumped everyone.

Doctors chose to eliminate Kylie’s medication to see what would happen. She hasn’t had a seizure since then, which Holly says has even the neurologist baffled.

Holly says Kylie is “a little bit off” right now. “I can’t put my finger on it, but she’s just not feeling well, and missing a fair bit of school.”

What better way to make a little girl feel wonderful than to make her princess for a day?

“It turned out great and was for a great cause,” Holly says. “Ours was the better day, but how do you control the weather?”

Jenny also added a new twist to this fundraiser – the beautiful handmade costumes were all up for auction. She purchased some of the items, while others were made and donated especially for the event. Everything was open to bids online, raising just over $1,000. This, along with a portion of the session fees, will be donated to the Lennox Gastaut Research Foundation.

Jenny hosted her first tea party on a whim, and is already planning on another next July when the buttercups are in bloom.

“This is the most fun, inspiring and fulfilling photographic event I’ve ever done!” Jenny exclaims. She plans to make it bigger and better every year.

“This event would not have been possible without the help of so many wonderful people,” Jenny says. This includes Teri Tapay and Fondant Creations at Sobeys, Purely Inspired Hair Academy, helpers Annie and Marissa, Henny Penny Creations, Funked Up, donors of auction items, Jacques Daignault, Jenny’s family, and all the families who conquered the wind at the photo shoot.

If you know of a child with a rare disorder who would benefit from a special day like this, please contact Jenny through Mill Canyon Photography’s Facebook page.

If you'd like to learn more about Kylie and her life with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome please follow the link below to a related story published previously in the Breeze.


Head up, shoulders back and try not to look cold!

All photos by Jenny Vandersteen of Mill Canyon Photography





















































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From the Oct. 9/13 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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