HOULKA – They only allow 10 people per team at the Mississippi Organ Recovery/Donate Life Mississippi 5K.
So the team from Houlka picked 10 people, formed a cheer-leading squad and even carried their own fans who sat in chairs and pulled for the home team as they honored the memory of Mekenzie Young, an 8-year-old organ donor, who died in a tragic car crash in February 2012.
“I can’t tell you what this has meant to Mekenzie’s family,” said Kathy Austin, Mekenzie’s great aunt. “The people of Houlka and all around this community helped us through Mekenzie death and what they are doing to keep her memory alive and benefiting others is just incredible.”
Young was injured in a automobile accident Feb. 17, 2012 and died at Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis on Feb. 19. Her organs were donated so others might live.
Austin said the family has been told a little girl in Texas got a new liver, a teenage boy in Virginia got a new heart and a man received a kidney.
“We ended up getting a letter from the kidney recipient who told how he and his wife had given up on finding a donor,” said Austin. “He couldn’t find a match in their family or among their friends. Then Mekenzie’s kidney showed up.
“He called Mekenzie his cosmic twin and explained how he had a daughter,” said Austin. “He is alive today because of an organ donation.”
The local team saw 27 people from Houlka and Chickasaw County drive to Jackson, April 28, to participate in the Racing for Donations 5K.
“Houlka is a special place and the people who live here do special things,” said Austin. “They turned out for Mekenzie’s visitation and funeral, they took part in a balloon release and they even named the girl’s softball field in her honor.”
A scholarship has been established in Young’s name and is given to a deserving high school graduate of Houlka High School each spring.
And the community continues to find ways to give to Young and remember her life.
Austin also told how Mekenzie wanted to be an organ donor.
“She was riding with her mother about a month before the accident and was looking in her mother’s purse and found her mother’s driver’s license,” said Austin. “Mekenzie asked what the little organ donor symbol was on her mother’s license and her mother told her what it meant to be an organ donor.
“She said ‘That’s neat. I want to do that,’” said Austin. “It hurt us all so much when she died and it was so tragic.
“But this is one way we remember her,” Austin added. “This is one way Mekenzie lives on in the lives of other people.”
Anyone wanting to make a monetary donation or learn more about becoming an organ donor can call Gay at Houlka City Hall at 568-2746 or visit www.msora.org/racing-for-donation-2013.