McKenna Causey is living proof that even a little can go a long way.

What began two years ago with a challenge from the Royal Bank of Canada to take a $150 donation and turn into something positive, has concluded with the purchase of a new piece of phototherapy equipment for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

In 2017, McKenna was one of 150 people from across Canada selected by RBC to receive the gift as part of their Make 150 Count campaign in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. She took her $150 and challenged 150 local businesses to make a matching donation to the hospital. At the end of her campaign, McKenna donated a total of $12,720.59 to the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation - enough to purchase a much-needed Bili Soft LED Phototherapy Set for the NICU.

The set is used to treat newborns suffering from jaundice, a condition in which too much bilirubin (hemoglobin and red blood cells) is present in the blood. The Bili Soft LED set help break down the bilirubin, which can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes. Untreated, it can lead to liver damage.

On Thursday, May 9th, McKenna, her parents, and her boyfriend toured the NICU with Unit 26 Manager Amie Mays to see the new Bili Light in action. McKenna says the experience was amazing.

“Giving a cheque is one thing, but actually seeing the equipment there in person is totally another experience,” she said. “It makes me feel so warm that I was able to do that.”

Amie Mays, the Manager of Unit 26 – which includes pediatrics and the NICU - said her staff were extremely grateful and impressed by McKenna’s decision to assist a unit she had no direct connection to.

“This is something that she sought out – what would be a unit or facility that could benefit from her donation,” explained Amie. “She shared with me that she didn’t want to just buy someone a cup of coffee, and then the cup of coffee was gone. She wanted something that could be reused over and over again, and support many families.”

McKenna, now 19 and a psychology student at Red Deer College, said helping others is what gives her life purpose and meaning these days. During the May 9th tour, McKenna was able to see the phototherapy equipment she helped purchase in action – albeit with the NICU’s Hal baby simulator standing in for a real baby. Nearby, the cries of two newborns undergoing phototherapy helped McKenna realize her donation would make a difference for years to come.

“The most special part was seeing that there were two babies that are using (the phototherapy equipment) right now. I know that this is going to be put to use and that it’s going to keep going for years to come – it’s going to keep helping them.”

McKenna tours Unit 26 with Amie Mays to see the new Bili Light 

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