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Mackenzie Bearup: Transforming Pain into Books

At 11 years of age, Mackenzie Bearup was diagnosed with a very painful neurological condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, one of the most painful and least known neurological conditions. At this point in time there is no known cure. There is no pain pill that can help stop the pain.  The only way she found to get her mind off her pain was to escape into a great book.  Mackenzie's doctor told her about Murphy-Harpst, a residential treatment center for some of our countries most abused children.  Murphy-Harpst was hoping to open a library for the children who reside there. They had the room but few books.

Mackenzie thought about how reading helped her get her mind off her pain and hoped that books could do the same thing for these children—help them escape their emotional, mental and physical pains and fears.  At 13 years of age, she gathered up books she no longer needed and asked friends and neighbors if they had books to donate.  Soon her book drive took off.  She collected and donated over 10,000 books to Murphy-Harpst filling their library to capacity.

She thought if this facility needed books, maybe others did as well.  She contacted homeless shelters to see if they were interested.  They certainly were.  As of this writing, Mackenzie has collected over 48,000 books and provided libraries in homeless shelters across the country.

Inspired by her own success in helping kids, Mackenzie recently opened up a non-profit organization, Sheltering Books, Inc. With this organization she is working to open reading rooms for children in homeless shelters across the country.

On any given day there are 1.35 million homeless children in the U.S. Many of these children end up in homeless shelters. Sometimes they are with a parent but often they are on their own, scared, worried and sad.  Mackenzie has seen firsthand the excitement on the faces of many of these children when she delivers hundreds, sometimes thousands, of books at a time to the various shelters.  Many of these children have never had access to books to read for fun. In fact, studies show that in low-income neighborhoods the ratio is one book for every 300 children.

Mackenzie has heard from many of the shelter directors saying how much the children and even single mothers are enjoying the books and are improving their reading skills. These new reading skills will help boost self esteem, and reading will introduce them to new places, ideas, and people. The directors of the shelters have mentioned that the books provide an excellent opportunity for the mothers to comfort their children by reading to them and also provide the opportunity for mothers to improve their own reading skills which will help them find better jobs to support their family and get out of the homeless shelters.

Mackenzie suffers daily from her terrible pain. She devotes her weekends to stopping by garage sales leaving flyers asking for donations of unsold books.  She sorts the books ensuring the right type of books go to the different type of shelters.

Due to her illness, Mackenzie is home schooled and takes a few of her classes online.  She is in the 11th grade, has a 4.15 GPA and has won numerous awards for academic excellence.  She plays the harp, violin, and piano. She also volunteers her time to the Special Olympics, pet therapy, the MDA Telethon, and plays her harp at numerous charity events.

For more information on Mackenzie and Sheltering Books, Inc. please visit her website

Special thanks to Mackenzie Bearup for submitting this story and letting us edit it for use on
Image Source: Mackenzie Bearup


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