From the moment Mackenzie has been born, she's made a unique mark on the world. She's been a light to everyone that knows her.
This is why in planning her 10th birthday party, I was so taken aback when no one RSVP'd. Mackenzie was born with Sotos syndrome, which has led to some developmental delays that have made it difficult for her to make friends.
As a mother, I was heartbroken for my daughter. I see a side of Mackenzie the rest of the world may not be privy to. She's intelligent and thoughtful, courageous and kind. Mackenzie was deserving of one special birthday.
So I took to Facebook and shared my heart and soul with complete strangers. I posted in a couple local for-sale groups I'm part of on Facebook, sharing my story and asking if there were any moms in the community who might bring their kids over to say happy birthday to Mackenzie the next day. It was not easy to do, nor was I was expecting the kind of response I would receive.
Within 30 minutes, a couple moms had already said yes. A little while later, my husband called me at work. “Do you realize what's happened?” he asked.
My posts had gotten a ton of responses and even spread to other groups. Two local news channels contacted us. A woman named Kate-Madonna Hindes reached out and offered to help me plan the party since what was going to be a backyard birthday with 10 to 20 people, suddenly got a lot bigger. Kate reserved space at a park and talked to local businesses about providing catering and decorations. Someone else set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the costs of the party. We set up a Facebook Event, and it spread even further.
Those 11 hours between making my post and the party the next day were overwhelming. I was so shocked by the response and so emotional to see all this work being done for us.
When I pulled up to the park the morning of the event, I just started crying. All of these people I didn't know had put together a huge party overnight. We were surrounded by children and families — more than 300 people came. There was a DJ and photographer. Pizza, cake and cupcakes. A Disney princess and tons of presents.
But what stood out the most was seeing my daughter happy and confident. Normally Mackenzie keeps to herself and is very reserved. But she was laughing and playing and hugging the guests. She wrote a speech and thanked everyone for coming. I saw a new little girl that day.
That day was so special, but it hasn't ended there. We met a number of families from the area, and Mackenzie's been invited to other parties and neighborhood events. She's gotten so many cards and Facebook posts from people around the world, and I've gotten hundreds of messages from people who were touched by our story. Plus, since local businesses provided all the food and entertainment for free, we were able to donate the money that was raised for Mackenzie's party to three different charities.
The outpouring of support for Mackenzie and our family has been so humbling. It's showed me the importance of spreading a message acceptance, tolerance and love beyond just our home. And it's given Mackenzie a new voice and confidence, I never thought I'd see. This has truly been a life-changing experience for our whole family.