Vaeda Zo Matheson says it’s OK to be different.
The eight-year-old West Kent Elementary School student was officially introduced on Monday as the Easter Seals ambassador at the 2020 campaign kickoff during the Rotary Club of Charlottetown’s luncheon.
“My motto is be different and follow your heart,’’ Vaeda told The Guardian. “If you are different, that’s OK. I’m different and I’m still so happy.’’
The daughter of Lorrie Jollimore and Jeff Matheson was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 11 months old. She had a stroke while in the womb — a brain injury that affected the movement on her left side. Neural connections to use her left arm, hand and leg were not well formed during early development.
Jollimore said she didn’t walk until she was three years old.
But, Vaeda never let her challenges stand in her way.
“And, since then, she’s just been go, go, go, learn, learn and learn,’’ Matheson said.
“Walking turned to running (and that) turned to jumping,’’ Jollimore added.
Vaeda says the weakness in her left side doesn’t get her down.
“When I look at my (left) hand (for example) I feel like I’m different than others and that makes me happy because people are always different,’’ says the youngster, who brims with an infectious, outgoing nature. "I’m happy with this. My goal is to do a cartwheel soon, and once I do a cartwheel I’m going to be even more happy.’’
“Once I saw Edna, my heart glowed . . . she was super happy, and I was super happy when she told me all the fun stuff (I’d get to do). I felt really happy.’’
-Vaeda Zo Matheson
A few of her favourite things
Some of Vaeda Zo Matheson’s favourite things include:
- Foods: Cheese and pepperoni pizza, potatoes, peas, carrots, lobster
- Drinks: Water, lemonade, orange juice, apple juice
- Treats: Hubba Bubba gum, chocolates, caramel, strawberry and watermelon suckers
- Entertainment: ET (the movie), any movie with dancing in it and making her own YouTube videos
Matheson said Vaeda Zo's determination is like nothing he’s ever seen.
“It’s been unreal. She has worked harder than most people I know. She’s overcome a lot; a lot that most people wouldn’t notice because they didn’t know her before,’’ he said. “She’s learned to adapt and overcome any challenge thrown at her but it didn’t come easy at first. There was a lot of effort to get to where we are and she’s going to keep working hard at it.’’
Mom has been equally impressed.
“It’s just been incredible,’’ Jollimore said. “She’s an amazing little girl who is just so able to do everything she sets out to do. We’ve always taught her to have huge goals and she’s followed through pretty good.’’
Vaeda received an award earlier this year from Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry as part of the youngster’s participation in the Joyriders Therapeutic Riding Association of P.E.I. Edna Reid, chairwoman of the Easter Seals 2020 campaign, spotted Vaeda’s picture in the paper and knew she had her 2020 ambassador.
“Because of her smile,’’ Reid said, referring to the picture.
Reid emailed Vaeda’s parents to see if she would be interested. Vaeda was more than willing.
Once Vaeda and Reid met to go over the fine details, the new ambassador couldn’t wait to get started.
“Once I saw Edna, my heart glowed . . . she was super happy, and I was super happy when she told me all the fun stuff (I’d get to do). I felt really happy,’’ Vaeda said.
The events Vaeda will take part in include the school tour, paper egg campaign, Charlottetown Islanders puck toss, and the Easter Beef Show and Sale, as well as barbecues and breakfasts.
“Vaeda Matheson is just a remarkable young lady,’’ Reid said. “She’s our ambassador, our princess.’’