For the first time in a long time, there is a lot to smile about for Vancouver Island’s “penny girl” ? an experimental new drug actually appears to be working.

“My oncologist said it is shrinking my tumours, it’s by a few little centimetres but that’s promising,” said the fundraiser.

CHEK News viewers first met Jeneece Edroff when she was four-years-old as her parents Angie and Dennis tried to find a cure for her rare genetic disorder. Called neurofibromatosis, it causes tumours to grow on her nerves and has resulted in years of chronic pain, more than two dozen surgeries, and countless procedures and tests.

But not one for sympathy, the little girl won over hearts across the province raising more than a million dollars in pennies for B.C.’s sick kids, and opening Jeneece Place ? a home away from home for children and their families to stay while receiving medical care in Victoria.

But now, at 24-years-old, it’s the fundraiser’s turn for some good news.

“Now that this medication is out I have a chance at a longer life and a chance at not having cancer.”

It’s a weight lifted but there’s another big change in Edroff’s life that has made the future even brighter. Vancouver Island’s “penny girl” has recently come out as transgender and is now known by friends as Frankie.

“I don’t want to hide anymore, I don’t want to be in the closet, I don’t want to feel trapped,” Edroff said. “Me just being open about it and not have to keep it a secret too much would be a lot better for me in the long run, mentally basically.”

Being such a well-known figure, Edroff says letting the public know is an important part of moving forward even though it could create problems with fundraising.

“I understand some people are totally against it and I can lose funding from people and what not and at the same time it’s part of our lives now.”

Edroff has found acceptance and support in an online community and among friends and family and hopes to inspire others to be themselves.

“Don’t be nervous to let people know, be proud of who you are and who you want to be, and let it shine,” he said.

And for those who know and love “Jeneece”, Frankie Edroff isn’t closing that chapter and is happy to still be referred to by that name.

“I’m still the same person, it’s just a name, but yes I’m still Jeneece Edroff, the penny girl, fundraising dynamo, Jeneece Place creator.”

“To my friends and my friends online it’s he, him, his but to the public and everybody else it can be anything you guys want to call me because I understand what I’ve created for myself.”

Edroff has every intention of continuing the legacy of Jeneece Place and hopes to someday raise enough money to open a second building. But for now, the plan is to work, go to college and hopefully gain some traction as a YouTuber with videos meant to make people laugh and to inspire.

April Lawrence