McKenzie's Run helps raise money for orphanages
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A rare disease took her life at the age of 15. But Saturday a Jacksonville teenager's passion for helping others lived on at the 5th annual McKenzie's Run.
Put on by the McKenzie Noeell Wilson Foundation and "coached" by Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, thousands of runners made their way from Everbank Field through downtown Jacksonville for a good cause.
Taking off inside Everbank Field runners know this is more than just run. It's a chance to help others. That was the passion of 15-year-old McKenzie Wilson, who died in 2010. The run keeps her passion alive, something her father calls remarkable.
"What's been amazing is she had a passion in her heart to care for others and really this brought out the heartbeat of the young people and all of the people in the community of Jacksonville," said Blake Wilson, McKenzie's father.
When the foundation first started it in 2010, about 2,500 runners took part. Last year, there were 3,700 runners and it keeps growing.
Bradley served as the unofficial coach for the runners.
"I truly believe and I know what the Wilsons believe is about service; and to really care, give and grow, not only for this community but the whole world," said Bradley.
Everyone had their reason for taking part.
"She was just a very special girl and she cared about the community a lot," said Katherine Scott, who works with the McKenzie Noeell Wilson Foundation
"It's kind of incredible seeing this foundation and seeing how many people she touched-- that's incredible and I hope that in my, hopefully long years, of living I can touch as many people as she did," said Colleen Maher, volunteer.
The run benefits the McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping young people locally and globally to recognize their full potential. The foundation operates two McKenzie's Academic Resource Centers which offer free academic programs to more than 300-at risk students.
Globally, the foundation has funded the building of three orphanages in Uganda.
McKenzie's father says the run really reflects the spirit of love in her heart.
"The fact that she cared for her friends, and her family and everybody that she met was really the essence of her specialness," said Blake Wilson.
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