Date Unknown

McKenzie Monks lives on

Foundation funds to help children in cancer fight
By Michael Scharnow
Times Editor

The tears still flow on a regular basis, but so does the determination to carry on and leave a legacy reminiscent of her charm and spirit.
McKenzie Morgan Monks came into this world Sept. 16, 1998, the third daughter belonging to Richard and Denise.
She was happiest trailing right behind her older sisters, Michelle and Mandy, now 14 and 13, respectively.
“By the age of tow, she was wearing the hippest styles and singing along with the hottest hits, and you could always count on a dance performance with every song and a hug at ever corner,” her mom recalls.
But life for the entire family would never be the same again after Dec.17, 2001, when McKenzie was diagnosed with a bi-lateral Wilms tumor – cancer in both kidneys.
Denise still shudders at the recollection of the pain and suffering McKenzie endured over the next 19 months.
After the diagnosis she faced a life of doctors, needles, 11 months of chemo, 12 surgeries, 50 radiation treatments, pain and the brutal process of undergoing a bone marrow transplant.
While other three-year-olds were busy playing on swing sets and digging in sand boxes, McKenzie endured painful attempts to kill the cancer cells growing in her innocent body.
Throughout the agony, however, McKenzie tried her best to remain a kid – to love, to laugh, to play, to keep dancing.
Yet on Aug. 7, 2003, six weeks before her fifth birthday, McKenzie left this life of pain.
“A child who never had the opportunity to go to school taught so many lessons, to so many people, about love and life,” Denise says.
“She taught us all that life is a gift and should never be taken for granted.
“I still get people coming up to me and saying that McKenzie made them think. Made them appreciate life just a little bit more.”
Toward that end, the Monks family has formed the McKenzie Monks Foundation in an effort to keep McKenzie’s spirit alive and help other children suffering through the terrible and brutal ordeal known as cancer.
“The four of us got together and decided to do something to keep her name and spirit alive,” Denise says of her family.
“We discussed helping cancer research, but the scope of that is just overwhelming at this point. There are many other causes working on that.
“We know there are a lot of kids facing this battle every day. We know what it’s like. It’s a tough life for little people. We thought we could help them, make a difference in their lives, maybe make it a little bit easier for them.”
Proceeds raised by the McKenzie Monks Foundation will be used for two programs right now.
The first is to provide toy rooms at oncology departments as well as hospital with arts, crafts, movies, toys, gifts, and objects of comfort and entertainment that will help a child endure and cope with the long days of treatment.
The second program has been dubbed “Kenzie Kase,” in which sponsors can adopt a case that can be used by cancer-stricken children as they are transported from home, doctor’s offices, hospitals, treatment rooms, etc.
Mckenzie had a pink “Hello Kitty” case that was stuffed full of toys and other goodies that would help distract her while in the car or waiting in an office somewhere.
“We want to provide cases for kids and backpacks for older children that will have age-appropriate items for their entertainment,” Denise says.
“Anything that will help make them more comfortable and help pass the time.
“This is one way we can reach out to individual children and touch their lives in a small way.”
The Monks plan to put a portable DVD player into each case along with other items.
“The priority will be helping children who are battling the disease,” Denise says.
“We felt it’s worth every effort. We all decided to do it. The girls will continue this after we’re done with it.
“We’re doing it in the name and spirit of an incredible little girl. She changed a lot of lives. The outpouring of love and support was incredible.
“Our family reached down to the lowest point of life, yet we also saw the best of humanity at the same time.
“Life was so cruel to her…Our life definitely has a huge hole in it.”
Still, the non-profit foundation was formed the past several months and the first McKenzie Monks Foundation fundraiser will be held Friday, May 14, at FireRock Country Club.
A golf classic will be held during the day featuring Tom Lehman and other recognizable PGA players, while an “Evening Under the Stars” will be held afterward featuring a cosmopolitan fashion show, dinner, live entertainment (The Shining Star Band featuring Jodi Light) and a small auction.
While Denise says the dinner portion is already sold out, there are a few golf spots still available.
The fashion show is being coordinated by Saks 5th Avenue.
“It’s mind boggling how this family project came together, but a lot of people stepped forward to make this possible,” Denise adds.
“People have joined us to do some good work. We can become a team and make a difference. People can adopt a case and help out.”