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Eastern Elementary students walk to support classmate with leukemia

Various events held to raise money for Mackenzie McCarter's family

May 30, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Mackenzie McCarter, 8, with her brother Jake, 12, wrapping his arms around her.
Submitted photo

Abigail Dodson, 9, was wearing a bracelet given to her by her classmate, Mackenzie McCarter, 8, who has leukemia.

“She is one of my best friends,” Dodson said. “When she told me she had leukemia, I was really surprised.”

Abigail, a Hagerstown third-grader who attends Eastern Elementary School, took part in a walk-a-thon the school held for Mackenzie Wednesday afternoon. Students walked around on a trail outside the school, and teachers collected donations for her.

“I’m really proud the school’s doing this,” Abigail said. “I’m hoping she’ll get better soon.”

Mackenzie’s diagnosis is a relapse, according to Assistant Principal Eric Meredith. She initially was diagnosed with the disease when she was 4 years old.

The walk-a-thon is among multiple events the school has held for Mackenzie, who lives in Hagerstown. As part of its recent Field Day, the school sold orange bracelets to raise money for the youngster.

Donations have also come in from staff members, parents and other schools in Washington County, Meredith said.

“The school community here at Eastern is going to be facing this challenge with Mackenzie,” Meredith said. “The amount of cards and letters they’re writing, and the donations they’re bringing in is all in support of Mackenzie.”

Ben Desclous, 9, said that he lives down the street from Mackenzie.

“Almost every day I go to her house,” he said. “I just hope she feels better.”

Ben and Abigail both described Mackenzie as smart and friendly.

“I didn’t know anybody when I came to school here, and Mackenzie introduced herself to me,” Abigail said. “If somebody’s having a bad day, she’ll go up and support them.”

Ben said that Mackenzie is a great friend to have.

“One time in kickball I didn’t get to kick, and Mackenzie saw I was mad and came up to me wanting to know what happened,” he said. “She cares about everybody.”

As of Tuesday, the school had raised between $700 and $800, according to Meredith.

Mackenzie’s mother, Melissa McCarter, 42, said the school’s endeavors have been humbling.

“All of this work for our family behind the scenes gives us strength,” she said. “It was devastating the first time I was told she had leukemia, and it’ll be harder this time.”

McCarter, a teacher at Winter Street Elementary School, said that at the time of Mackenzie’s first diagnosis, her older brother Jake was attending Eastern Elementary, and the school was supportive of then.

“This is the second time the school has embraced us,” she said. “This community has just rallied behind us.”
Jake is now 12 years old and a seventh-grader at E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

Rich Secrest, Eastern Elementary’s physical education teacher, said that it is important for the school to support Mackenzie.

“You have to take care of your own,” he said. “Mackenzie is very mature ... but these are kids, and many of them don’t understand too much about things like this until it hits home.”

Leena El-Mohandes, 10, a fourth-grader who also took part in the walk, said its important for everyone who can support Mackenzie to do so.

“Every hand counts,” she said. “I can’t stand hearing about things like this, and we really want to support her. I feel bad she has to suffer through this.”

The Mackenzie McCarter Beneficiary Fund has been set up at the M&T Bank on Dual Highway for anybody wishing to make a donation, Meredith said.

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