Many little girls enter beauty pageants in hopes to win, with the support of their family and friends in the audience. Eleven-year-old McKenzie Carey uses a “prop,” who serves as her support system on stage at all times: her 50-year-old dad, Mike Carey. McKenzie was born with the debilitating genetic disorder mitochondrial disease, which left her wheelchair-bound but hasn't stopped her on the road to becoming a beauty pageant queen.
"I just took the stage and was joking around," Carey told the NY Daily News. "I said, 'Leave it up to me and I'll give her the best chance possible to win the pageant. I put her on the stage and did a wheelie, spun her around, and did a dance. The crowd went crazy.” Mike helped his daughter perform this routine after she won a local pageant that qualified for a state competition that included a talent portion.
McKenzie started her career in beauty pageants with the help of her mother, Tammy Carey, who always entered her daughter in local pageants to show her daughter could still participate in events with other children. Mike has been performing with his daughter since 2010 and has competed in a dozen pageants every year. Needless to say, McKenzie and her family have not let her illness define who she is.
The 12-year-old was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease when she was 18 months old, The Huffington Post reported. Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to maintain life and support growth, according to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. Due to her condition, McKenzie’s body is not able to reproduce cells, and therefore she suffers from a severe lack of energy and the ability to perform many tasks.
McKenzie’s dad is happy to help his daughter with her beauty pageants and was unaware of the effect he had on the audience. The proud father noted people have donated McKenzie dresses, makeup, and other items. The family has set up a GoFundMe site to raise $1 million to pay for alternative therapies for McKenzie since treatment can only alleviate, or slow down the progression, but not cure the disease. The Careys aspire to travel outside the country to expand their treatment options.
“We're just regular people trying to do something nice for our daughter,” Carey said.