Girl battling lifelong disease donates over 100 presents to Methodist Children’s Hospital

Mackenzie Hennessey wanted to give back to others last year, but the pandemic paused her plans

DEVINE, Texas – A Medina County girl donated over 100 presents to the Methodist Children’s Hospital as a way to give back to other kids, and to thank the hospital for helping her battle her lifelong disease.

Mackenzie Hennessey, 11, is a 6th grader at the Devine Middle School. She has good grades, is active in sports and is very involved with the student council.

Kathy Hennessey, her grandmother, said Mackenzie is even more than that.

“She has a heart of gold,” Kathy said. “She always puts others first. It is never, ‘About me’ or ‘What can I get.’ It is always about helping others and ‘What can I do to brighten their life’ with her.”

Her grandparents are not the only ones blessed to have Mackenzie around.

“She came to my school as a head-start 4-year-old,” said Stephanie Kohlleppel, her school counselor. “She has an extreme level of caring. She is the oldest of three children and has had a tough go with several bumps in the road. She doesn’t let that deter her from taking care of others like her siblings and her friends. She is just extremely caring.”

Sadly, Mackenzie was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 6-years-old in 2017. It is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can cause life-threatening complications.

She said it has been a battle but has been receiving treatment from the Methodist Children’s Hospital since the beginning.

“It is up and down,” Mackenzie said. “Sometimes, I feel the pain and I can’t stop it but I have to keep going.”

“At that time when she was diagnosed, she had severe Crohn’s disease, which affected all of her esophagus all the way down,” said Kathy. “She was put on an adult medicine and she still takes it today. Her pain level can be where she is curled up all night screaming, ‘It hurts,’ but people don’t see that. Because she doesn’t let anyone see that. You only see the giving side of her.”

During the start of the pandemic, Mackenzie had to put her plans to give back to the Methodist Children’s Hospital on hold because hospital officials were not letting anything in or out.

This year, however, that changed.

“‘This has been weighing on my heart,’ was her words,” said Kathy. “She asked me to please call the hospital again and I called and left a message, but then I got a call back and they said that she could do something.”

“I practically almost broke the window,” Mackenzie interrupted happily.

“Yes, she was so excited,” laughed the grandmother.

Mackenzie then teamed up with Kohlleppel, who then took to Facebook and got the community involved with raising funds.

Together they were able to raise about $700 to purchase 120 gifts for 120 pediatric beds at the Methodist Children’s Hospital.

“Seeing her get to do the stuff that makes her heart happy…makes my heart happy,” Kohlleppel said through tears. “She proves that you have to have faith. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and that you can’t be bogged down with the different circumstances you are dealing with in life.”

The presents consist of gifts for babies, children, pre-teens and older teens.

“Whenever you have something on your heart that you want to fulfill that dream, do it,” Kathy said. “There is a lot of people that helping her that she didn’t even know. The community stepped in. She is even talking about doing this next year and for Easter.”

Mackenzie, who says she wants to be a chef one day, hopes her act of kindness inspires others.

“I just feel like we need to make a difference,” Mackenzie said. “Those children need to know they are special. During this time, they need to feel joyful and happy. I am just really glad I could do this this year.”

About the Authors

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.

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