It all started with a hissy fit!
Mackenzie Oliver was four years old, standing with her mom at Barrie’s waterfront on an autumn day, getting ready to participate in Run for the Cure. She noticed all these other women wearing pink t-shirts. Hers wasn’t pink. And if you know four year olds, they’re vocal and righteous about everything. So Mackenzie handled it by having a hissy fit. She wanted a pink t-shirt, too.
Her mom, Ingrid, took her aside to explain that the women wearing the pink t-shirts were cancer survivors and they were the only ones to wear the pink t-shirts.
“My mom told me we were like soldiers fighting to make life better. Pink is a pretty colour, but not in a pretty way, at least when it comes to cancer,” says Mackenzie.
Toward the end of the run, Mackenzie noticed a woman in a pink shirt who was crying and she took a kleenex over to the lady and stood with her for awhile. She asked her mom if they could always run for the cure, together, forever. When her mom asked, ‘why’ Mackenzie said, “because children shouldn’t grow up without their mommies.”
Why does this story matter? Because today Mackenzie is 10 but she remembers that day and she remembers feeling like she stood out, like she was ‘different’ without a shirt the same as everyone else. It is her first memory of feeling that way.
As she grew and started school there were lots of times that she felt ‘different.’ She listened to her friend in grade 2 who moaned because she felt like she was too fat. She said people made fun of her. Mackenzie took this tale home to her mother and once again, Ingrid settled on a message that would make sense to her 7 year old.
“My mom put me in front of the mirror and asked me who I saw. ‘Me,’ I said. That’s the only person’s opinion that matters,” her mother replied. “Yours is the only opinion that matters.”
Next day at school, Mackenzie and her friend met back in the washroom and Mackenzie repeated her mother’s action. “Who do you see? That’s the only person whose opinnion matters!”
When her birthday came along that year she wanted to celebrate by watching the movie, High School Musical, and having pizza and pop. To cap it off, Mackenzie and her mom made “I Love Me” T-shirts for each girl at the party.
Together they made the shirts, cutting and sewing and ironing on the decals to the shirts.
I Love Me. What a message for a young person, victimized by grade school taunts and insecurities, to hear. What a message to wear!
Today, Mackenzie is 10 years old and has presented her I Love Me shirts to more than 80 people. Someone won one on Saturday night at the Oxfam fundraiser because Mackenzie donated an I Love Me basket to the silent auction, complete with T-shirt, slogan, and blanket in a basket.
The 10 year old has members at her old school, members at her new school, and people around the community, plus people who’ve bid on her baskets at silent auctions. Those people never call to activate their club membership, though, which is a disappointment for Mackenzie. “But, at least they’ve got the shirt and the message!” (I Love Me Club, firstname.lastname@example.org)
She says she’s given the shirt to a teacher, and to people she barely knows. “I think it matters because people discriminate and tell other people that there’s something wrong with them. It’s important for people to know they matter in the world and that what others say isn’t important at all.
“If you believe them, you’re going to end up like they say you are, never knowing if you look all right, or your hair looks all right. It really affects your self esteem if you let other people tell you you’re no good.”
There’s no room for negativity in the I Love Me Club. “We don’t do meetings, but if a member starts talking about how they look, then, boop!…you’re out of the club!”
Mackenzie says that sometimes people ask if they can join the club, but mostly she identifies people and invites them. Some live in Barrie, some don’t. And to truly belong, you have to take the club oath.
It goes like this: I, Donna Douglas, do solemnly swear to always love who I see when I look in the mirror, inside and out.
“My little sister is 3 and it was funny to watch her do the oath with me. Her words were all over the place, because she’s 3. When I did my speech at school about the club, a boy asked if he could join. He certainly could, says Mackenzie. Age range for club members is from age 3 to 66… it can go even higher… I don’t care.”
“You’re never too old to believe that you’re beautiful!”
Right! Thanks, Mackenzie.