ISB » News Archives » ISB Great People InService - Mackenzie Bearup
CNN Hero 2010 [Nominee]
Reading through It All
During her toughest times, Mackenzie Bearup found peace through reading. She was in middle school when she sustained an injury that made it impossible to attend school on a normal basis. Cold weather, wind and vibrations would cause her excruciating pain. She was placed in a homebound program with a teacher coming to her house twice a week to deliver and pick up her school work.
“Several years ago,” Mackenzie says, “I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a very painful medical condition. The only way I could get my mind off the pain was to escape into a great book.”
During that time, her doctor told her about a residential treatment center that was hoping to open a library for the abused children who live there.
“I thought about how reading helped me get my mind off my pain and decided to donate my old books I no longer needed to help these children,” says Mackenzie. “Then I asked friends and neighbors if they had books to donate. Soon, my book drive took off. Today I have donated over 22,000 books. I am currently opening reading rooms in 15 shelters throughout Georgia.”
“I like to think that having books for the moms to read to their children can give them each a sense of calmness and safety. I know that reading helps students perform better in school and can help them learn and explore many things, cultures and places they could not otherwise learn about. Hopefully, the books I give the shelters will enable the children who read them to develop a lifelong love of reading and to perform better in school and become successful members of our community.”
Giving helped Mackenzie take her mind off her pain, and the drive’s success showed her all she could accomplish. Even through her troubles, she maintained a 4.0 GPA in gifted and talented classes and made the national honor roll. Mackenzie also plays the harp in an orchestra, and she has shared that peaceful instrument with her community by playing for charity events and at assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Mackenzie says her grandfather, the late Morris Clark, was her main role model. “He was a double amputee due to rheumatoid arthritis,” she says. “Despite having lost both legs, being confined to a wheelchair, and being in great pain due to his arthritis also being in his hands and shoulders, he never complained. He taught me that helping others is the best way to help you feel better.”
After college, Mackenzie plans to attend law school and become in-house counsel for a major fashion designer. “I have always had a love for fashion, but I also enjoy research and business. I feel this would be an excellent way to combine these interests.”
Taking her book program national is something else Mackenzie wants to do. The energy she puts into her activities is what she sees lacking in many of her peers. “I feel a major problem in the world today is apathy. It seems that many people, especially teenagers, just don’t care about anything but themselves. I feel this is partly because they do not realize how easy it is to make a difference in the world and how good it can make you feel to see the joy you can bring to a complete stranger.” They should just ask Mackenzie who is a perfect example of a leader InService.