In her final curtain call, the last scene in the life of a brave young woman, Jenelle Whyte mustered her energy to fulfill a dream and attend a concert.
It was a fundraiser for CancerCare Manitoba and Hamiota District Health Centre, held at the sunny park on Saturday, July 13 in Kenton, where she grew up.
Jenelle had cancer, but she did not go quietly. She had a dream one night in September of a music event and fundraiser to be held in the park at Kenton. She envisioned crowds, dancing on the lawn under the stars.
She woke her mother at 3:00 a.m. saying, ‘Mum, Mum, I’ve had an idea…’ telling her of the dream.
This became Jenelle’s Fudge Cancer event.
After surgery early in 2019, planning began. Jenelle began contacting musicians and with the help of Nicole Wilson, and community members, the event came together.
Brierwood Creek Café set up a food kiosk beside the park.
Big and small donations came in for live and silent auctions and prize draws.
A fantastic line-up of performers included special friend Eva Gulay (Stevenson), and Jenelle’s cousins - soloist Caley Brown and Erin Brown with Jimmy G and the Cable Guys.
There was an air of joy and purpose in Kenton Memorial Park as performers came and went on the open-air stage.
However, when emcee Vaughn Wilson announced that afternoon that Jenelle was too ill to attend the concert, a murmur rippled through the audience.
Meanwhile her parents, Craig and Marianne, and brother Roy sat by her bed in Hamiota hospital. Younger brother Danny represented the family at the music event, passing out home-made fudge as he mingled.
Jenelle was unresponsive in her illness that morning, but when her mother told her, ‘I don’t think we’re going to make it to the concert,’ something happened.
“She had to be there!” said Marianne in an interview. “She sat up, her eyes opened and she said, ‘What?! We are going!’”
Sure enough, via Hamiota Handi-Transit, Jenelle and her family were brought in and parked in front of the bandstand.
Jenelle realized her dream was a reality.
She was applauded with whoops and cheers. A half-hour later she was taken to the Whyte home to visit her dog before returning to Hamiota hospital. She would die in her hospital bed that evening, about the time the final set played in Kenton park.
Her mother said, “She knew the concert was a success and she was able to go in peace. That’s just the way she was, very full of grace, and humble.”
The fundraiser was successful and memorial contributions have continued to come in. “It will be a healthy amount for both foundations,” said Marianne.
Jenelle took sick in August 2018 and was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer after her 32nd birthday. A Wilms’ tumour on one kidney. This disease, usually seen in young children and often successfully treated, is rare in adults (about 1 in 7 million).
Jenelle was an overcomer. Born with Shprintzen Syndrome, (which manifested as a learning disability also affecting coordination) she did not let that stop her. Prior to her illness she enjoyed employment in Winners store (Brandon).
“Jenelle was here for 32 years, but it was a full 32 years,” said her mother. “She was determined to do what she did and she accomplished everything.”
A week after Fudge Cancer, her community of family and friends celebrated Jenelle’s life in Kenton Memorial Park, July 20.