By Karen Billing
Mackenzie Bath, 15, rappelled 33 floors down the Manchester Grand Hyatt downtown on Aug. 18 for the fourth annual Over the Edge event for Kids Included Together (K.I.T.), a national nonprofit based in San Diego that promotes inclusion for kids with disabilities.
Mackenzie raised more than $1,100 for the organization with her rappel.
Going over the edge of the building is not something you can really prepare for.
“I’ve never done anything like that before and I kind of just went for it,” said Mackenzie, a Torrey Pines High School sophomore. “In the beginning, you’re on a ledge and they tell you to just lean back and that’s really scary. When you’re about halfway down it settles in that you’re doing it.”
Mackenzie’s family members got a room on the 18th floor of the hotel and were stationed in the window to wave as she went by.
“She got better after she saw us,” said mom Lynne. “Then we all ran out to meet her at the bottom.”
Mackenzie was featured in Over the Edge’s promotional literature for the event, as the issue of inclusion is one near and dear to her heart. Her older brother Kevin has special needs and she has seen how inclusion has helped change his life.
“My brother has been fortunate to be treated equally in most situations and that has made him the person that he is today: social, happy, funny and fun to be around,” Mackenzie wrote. “Being included has helped him to include everyone around him because he has felt the benefits of it.”
Mackenzie is a very active participant in the Best Buddies club, which she has been involved with since her middle school days. The program pairs regular education students with students who have special needs to foster friendships and this year, as a sophomore, she will be president of the school’s club.
Her goals this year are to have one event outside of school every month, do some fund-raisers and become more involved in the county-wide Best Buddies prom.
“I want to make really great matches between Best Buddies pairs and create friendships outside of just the club,” Mackenzie said. “I want to set up a strong Best Buddies club that will keep going after I’m gone.”
This summer she attended a national Best Buddies leadership conference called “Inclusion Revolution” at the University of Indiana and she is excited to bring what she learned to the club.
“I just learned how much Best Buddies can affect people and how much it can really do for people with disabilities,” Mackenzie said.
Kevin participated in Best Buddies while he attended Torrey Pines High and Mackenzie saw the benefits first hand.
“(Best Buddies) really gave him confidence to be himself around everyone and gave him really close friendships,” said Mackenzie. “A lot of kids with disabilities can feel closed off…Best Buddies really creates strong friendships. Kevin made so many good friends and when they came over to see him, his face just lit up.”
Kevin graduated from Torrey Pines in 2011 and is now at Taft College in a program for special needs students that teaches them how to live independently. Kevin is one of only 24 students in the program.
“I’m really proud of him,” Mackenzie said.
In addition to her busy summer climbing down buildings, becoming a better Best Buddies leader, and organizing and running an Amazing Quest summer camp to earn extra money, Mackenzie, an aspiring writer, also won the “Soulbound” short story contest on Figment.com.
Out of 284 entries, Mackenzie’s “Best Friend, Boyfriend” received the most user votes and was hand-picked as the winner by the “Soulbound” series author Heather Brewer.
As the winner, she will receive the first two books from the “Soulbound” series and the yet-to-be-published third installment with the author’s autograph.
“I want to work in a publishing house as a publisher or editor and write on the side,” said Mackenzie of her future goals.
Mackenzie is looking for some good TPHS volunteers for Best Buddies.
To learn more and apply, visit Bestbuddiesonline.org. The club meets at lunchtime on Thursdays at the lunch tables outside the gym.