Julia Kang and her family have a friend in Variety, The Children's Charity of BC.
And, as they quickly discovered after moving to Pitt Meadows this past February, they have plenty of friends in the community.
Julia has been through much during her short life.
She was born prematurely at 34 weeks by emergency C-section. When she was only three days old, doctors discovered that she had bleeding in her brain. This is an extremely rare condition with no cure.
Julia's mom Lydia was unsure about what lay ahead for her only child.
Will she ever go to school? Will she have any friends? "The doctors didn't want to look ahead that far, simply because they really didn't know," Lydia said.
Julia suffers from seizures, is visually impaired, and did not start walking until she was three.
Trapped in her own world, Julia was resistant at first to the therapy that was offered by specialists.
"It was just so hard," Lydia said. "You are in denial - and you're angry. You have your child's life planned out.
Disability is not something you plan for."
Then, at three, Julia started making progress.
With the help of Variety, which paid for expensive ankle-foot orthosis (AFOs), she was finally able to stand for the first time on her own at the age of three-and-a-half.
"She just couldn't stand on her own," Lydia recalled.
Later, Variety covered the cost of articulated orthotics that allowed her to pedal an adapted bike for the first time.
Variety didn't stop there. The charity funded a wheelchair lift for the family van to allow Julia to get in and out of the vehicle safely.
Lydia is thankful for the support her family received.
"I grew up in a culture that believed in not asking for help - no matter how hard your life gets," she said. "But the staff at Variety showed so much compassion. All they ever asked was 'How can we help?'"
In essence, Julia's school community asked the same question, and came through in a big way.
Julia attends Grade 5 at St. Patrick's School, for students from kindergarten to Grade 7.
Tisha Scoffins has two children at St. Patrick's and helped organize a fundraiser at the school as part of the Variety Kids Coin Drive that runs until Oct. 31.
Scoffins volunteers with Variety and when Julia appeared on last year's coin box she spoke to Lydia and the school about getting St. Patrick's involved.
Last school year, a Variety representative visited St. Patrick's to explain to students what the children's charity does and who it helps.
And this past June, four groups of St. Patrick's students raised $340 through a coin drive.
"They had jars outside the office and they brought in coins, pennies and whatever other coins, and it was all tallied up," Scoffins explained. "Literally, it was just a coin drive."
Proceeds will help children who have special needs and their families with grants for things like emergency transportation costs to out-of-community hospitals, expensive medications, mobility and communication devices, and therapeutic programs.
St. Patrick's students and staff have been very supportive of not only the coin drive, but of Julia as well, her mom remarked.
"The school has been absolutely wonderful welcoming her into the classroom," Lydia said.
Scoffins said Julia has helped her fellow students learn about living in an inclusive world.
"The other kids learn that everybody's different, and everybody has different needs and challenges," she said. "While your challenge may be reading, her challenges are a little bit different and a little bit more obvious."
Lydia realizes more challenges lay ahead for her daughter, who has a rare condition known as glutaric acidemia type 1, which means her body can't properly process proteins.
"At the end of the day it is what it is," Lydia said. "My daughter does have a chronic illness to begin with and there's no cure for it.
When she was first born they always said, she was never going to make her third birthday and even then she most likely would never, ever do anything. For us, [she] has been a blessing every single day."
Despite the various physical challenges she faces every day, Julia is now able to wheel herself around in her wheelchair, can walk short distances with a walker, enjoys therapeutic horseback riding, and takes singing lessons.
"When her doctor saw her sing, she cried," Lydia said. "She never imagined Julia would be able to sing!"
It's been a privilege to fundraise for Variety, Lydia said, calling it an "amazing organization."
"And what amazes me the most is that fundraising for Variety has given us a chance to connect to the community we live in," she said. "When you have a child with so much challenges, you could so easily feel isolated, simply because you are just too busy and sometimes overwhelmed."
Julia is one of the 13 kids across B.C. participating in the Variety Kids Coin Drive this month.
IGA stores, Marketplace IGA locations, and Bank of Montreal branches across the province will display coin boxes featuring Heartley, a great big smiling heart, and ask customers to support Variety by donating loose change.
"And if they have any fundraising ideas, I am all ears," Lydia added.