Thursday, June 10, 2010

Give Me Shelter

Like 16-year-old Mackenzie Bearup, I found refuge in books as a young kid, wandering for hours a day in the world of words. Unlike Mackenzie, a CNN Hero, I wasn't driven to this place by intense physical pain.

Six years ago, Mackenzie was dancing to "American Idol" when her knee seemed to explode with pain. By the next day, it had swollen to grapefruit size, and within a week it would collapse when she tried to walk.

Doctors diagnosed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, an incurable condition affecting anywhere from 200,000 to 1.2 million people. When meds and other treatments failed to ease Mackenzie's pain, she found that the only thing that distracted her from it was reading.

The experience inspired her to reach out to other kids who were suffering. She began collecting books for a residential treatment center, near her Georgia home, for severely abused children. With a goal of 300 books, she gathered 3,000 -- and a passion was born.

Mackenzie has gone on to collect more than 38,000 books to date for homeless and abused children in six states. With her mom's help, she launched a nonprofit organization, Sheltering Books, in 2009.

That's a story worth a book of its own.

(ps Thanks to Generation Cures, via Twitter, for the heads-up on Mackenzie)

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