Great Lakes Credit Union and Little Lake County are proud to bring you “Kirby’s Kids: Little Hands, Big Hearts.” This program recognizes an extraordinary child each month and brings you their stories of determination, hope and goodwill.
Life takes some unexpected turns sometimes, but it is how you handle it that really matters.
Seven years ago, when Mackenzie was only four years old, she learned the devastating news that her brother was diagnosed with leukemia. Her brother was not only her sibling, but also Mackenzie’s twin. The news came as a terrible blow to the entire family, but especially to young Mackenzie who barely knew how to process the news at such a young age. The peaceful life of her family, drastically changed in the blink of an eye to a life of hospital visits, tests, precautions and a lot of extra attention focused on her brother.
At the time, Mackenzie and her brother Jack attended the same Mundelein preschool. Jack was usually the bubbly, talkative social one of the pair, while Mackenzie enjoyed the background. Jack’s diagnosis turned the tables, and most days, Mackenzie found herself attending preschool alone, due to his numerous trips to the hospital. Without Jack there to speak for her, her personality began changing as the days went by. The little girl who enjoyed staying out of the spotlight, was slowly finding her voice.
She began talking about cancer, and being very understanding of what her brother was going through, even though she was only four years old. At this time, the most intense of Jack’s treatment, Mackenzie was often left with friends and family as John and Vickie, the twins’ parents, rushed off to the hospital with Jack. At a very young age, Mackenzie had to learn to adapt to any surrounding, people, and situation. She also learned that sometimes, things don’t always go as planned. As the twins’ grew older, they missed more and more things. Holidays were sometimes spent at home, because Jack couldn’t be exposed to any possible germs, fun events were occasionally cancelled if Jack was in the hospital, and plans were sometimes changed, because Jack wasn’t feeling up to it. Mackenzie never complained, never blamed her brother, and never held it against him. She always went with the flow and supported him all the way.
As the years ticked by, and Jack’s treatments continued, and Mackenzie grew older, she became more vocal and active about leukemia awareness. She participated in various events with her brother to raise money for research, helped organize fundraisers to donate money to the hospital, and became involved in collecting band aids for the hospital. This was in order to help kids have a fun character band aid when they had blood draws and became a fun project for the twins to work on together. Mackenzie’s passion was not only for her brother, but all kids who suffered from an illness. She saw what her brother had to go through, and did not want anyone to have to go through it too. She tried her best to help her brother live a normal life during his treatment. She played with him, included him in playdates with other friends, and treated him just as any sister would treat her brother. She didn’t want Jack’s illness to define him, and she supported him every day in order to make that happen.
Mackenzie may seem like an ordinary little eleven year old girl. She loves gymnastics and rock climbing, enjoys hanging with friends and playing basketball, and aspires to be a photographer when she grows up. No one would ever guess that she has been through more than most of us will ever know. She encourages others to support siblings of children with serious illnesses because sometimes they tend to be “forgotten” in the craziness of the treatment of the illness and the attention that needs to be paid to the sick sibling. Mackenzie strongly believes that if your family sticks together, they can get through anything. Keeping a positive attitude and working together makes anything possible. She also suggests “going with the flow” when things get tough. If you cannot change it, you just have to deal with it in the best way possible. Despite the obstacle that her family had, they stuck together and made it out ok.
Because of her family, Mackenzie feels like they were able to deal with everything so much better. When asked who her hero is, Mackenzie says it is her mom, without a doubt.
She always sticks up for me and supports me in everything I do!
Mackenzie’s life changed course when her brother was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, but with the support of family, her own determination to make a difference and the love for her brother, she was able to not only get through the hard times, but also to make a difference in the lives of others. Today, Mackenzie remains one of most caring, selfless, and helpful children you will meet. Mackenzie is now eleven years old and exudes the character of a young lady who has been through a lot, but managed to get through it with grace. Life can bring you some unexpected turns, but it is how you handle it that makes all the difference.
Do you want to make a difference in the life of a child with cancer? You can help too! Mackenzie and her family are very passionate about one organization in particular, since they always make an effort to include the siblings in the care and assistance that they offer. Check out Cal’s Angels for more information and to learn more about this amazing pediatric cancer foundation.
Each and every one of our Kirby’s Kids gets to meet Kirby the Kangaroo at their local Great Lakes Credit Union branch. Kirby met Mackenzie at their local Round Lake branch and opened up a savings account in her name with a $50 starting balance, courtesy of Great Lakes Credit Union.
Do you know an inspirational, courageous or exceptional young person living in Lake County, (ages 13 and under) who is serving as a role model in his or her community? Help us recognize these big hearts! Nominate a child for the Kirby’s Kid program.
Follow this link to complete a nomination form. If your nominee is selected we will contact you and/or the child’s guardian for inclusion in the Kirby’s Kids program.
For more information about the Kirby’s Kids, read our program introduction.
Disclosure: Great Lakes Credit Union is the paid sponsor of the Kirby’s Kids program.