When 11-year-old Mackenzi Moers receives an intravenous blood product designed to boost her fragile immune system –– every three weeks her condition, called hypogammaglobulinemia, requires her to undergo a taxing six-hour regimen that supplies her with antibodies to help fight infection –– she is troubled by what she sees.
There are times when the tears just come.
Other children in the treatment room at the Children’s Specialty Center of Nevada become even more worn out than she does, boys and girls with cancer, their energy sapped and their hair lost to the chemotherapy that hopefully will kill their malignancies.
“It is very hard to watch them feeling so bad, when they’re bald and they don’t want to be,” Mackenzi said recently as she sat at home with her mother, Staci Moers, and father, Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers. “I try to talk to them, to make them feel better. But sometimes no one wants to talk because they don’t feel good.”
At a time when antisocial behavior among the young grabs headlines –– federal studies show bullying causes 160,000 children a day to stay home from school, while another study found college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than those of 30 years ago –– you are heartened by a visit with Mackenzi, a Del Webb Middle School sixth-grader who was no stranger to emergency hospitalizations for respiratory infections before she was diagnosed with an immune disorder two years ago.
Like about a dozen other young people, and hundreds of adults, including male and female police officers, she’ll have her hair cut off as part of Klip it for Kidz, a fundraiser for the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday outside the Guitar Center store at Town Square. It’s an event that’s raised $125,000 in the past.
Mackenzi has already raised $1,300 in pledges for the shearing of her waist-length hair.
“I’m lucky my medicine doesn’t make me lose my hair,” Mackenzi said.
She asks for donations through a poem, “Got Hair?” that reads in part:
“I love my hair, I love it so,
But in April, it’s time, it’s time to go …
It’s for kids with cancer, and it makes wigs for kids,
This way they can stop wearing hats, caps or lids.
So I ask for your pledge for a small money donation,
To help me support the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.”
To Jeff Gordon, head of the cancer foundation that must raise $2 million each year to support more than 40 local programs for ill children, Mackenzi illustrates how some young people still react to the hardship of others.
“We also have many UNLV students helping out, but there are trends going in the wrong direction,” he said. “It’s concerning.”
Gordon agrees with researchers who believe empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and recognize and respond to what that person is feeling, is natural, but that nurturing it helps.
Without empathy, people act only out of self-interest, without regard for the feelings and well-being of others, fostering violence and criminal behaviors –– sexual offenses, cold blooded murder –– that can destroy a society.
Early in life it’s common to see empathy in action when a toddler brings a favorite blanket or toy to a child who is crying or hurt. Yet studies show the environment in which a child is reared can make a difference in whether empathy is fostered or suppressed.
Patrick and Staci Moers said Mackenzi, the youngest of their three children, has been moved by police and community groups bringing food, clothes and toys to the needy.
“She now puts shampoo, soap and a brush in Ziploc bags to give out all year long,” her proud father said.
What impresses Gordon about Mackenzi is that her condition is far from good –– she also suffers from migraine headaches that cause her to go to California for treatment –– yet she reaches out to help others.
“She already realizes that when you try to be of service to others, you feel so much better and your own problems decrease.”
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@review
journal.com or 702-387-2908.