Principal for a Day uses her role to help a friend

November 18, 2014

During her time as Principal for a Day last Friday, Holly Elementary student Saiya Mann wanted to help her friend and schoolmate Jessica Gentle.

Jessica, who was Vice-Principal for a Day, has mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS), an inherited genetic condition.

"I decided to do fundraising because she's a really, really good friend of mine. All of us just want to help find a cure for her," said Saiya, 9. Students watched a movie at lunch, at which time popcorn and bracelets were sold, with proceeds going to the Canadian MPS Society. Nearly $1,300 was raised.

"Everyone's body is made up of cells. These cells have something called an enzyme. The enzyme's job is to break down and recycle glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in the cells," reads an information sheet that went out to students. "Children who have MPS are missing this enzyme.

This means that instead of being recycled, the GAGs accumulate in the cells, which causes progressive damage to the heart, bones, joints, respiratory systems and, sometimes, central nervous systems. There is no cure."

Jessica's mom Jenifer said MPS has had a huge effect on her daughter, who has hearing and vision impairment and has gone through 18 surgeries, including a hip reconstruction and a bone marrow transplant.

She said it's great that Saiya wanted to help out Jessica.

"She's so young and she's already thinking about other children and wanting to help her friends. Saiya said, 'We just want to fix this.'" Both students are in Grade 4 at the East Ladner school.

Saiya said being principal for the day was going well and that it was also really busy. She said she was making lots of deliveries, writing birthday cards and getting lots of emails.

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