Editor’s Note: Wow! What an amazing dad! It’s heartwarming to see such a loving person.
With help from her adoring father, a 12-year-old girl with a rare genetic disease is dancing her way through pageants, winning trophies and stealing hearts.
A video that’s going viral shows McKenzie Carey being wheeled onstage by her father at a local pageant held earlier this month. Dad Mike Carey lifts his daughter into his arms and twirls, carries and dips her to the music before ending the dance with a beaming smile and cheers of support from the audience.
“Dancing with daddy makes her feel like she’s on top of the world,” Carey, of Dallas, Georgia, tells TODAY Parents. We’re pretty sure the feeling is mutual.
This isn’t the first time McKenzie has wowed the crowd. She has competed in over 100 pageants and has performed the two-step, hip hop, the waltz and several other dances with her dad (who, while an enthusiastic partner, is clearly not a trained dancer).
McKenzie is living with mitochondrial disease, which deprives her body of energy. In the US, approximately 1,000 to 3,000 children per year are born with a mitochondrial disease, according to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. The disease confines McKenzie mainly to her wheelchair and limits her verbal communication to just a few words.
“Pageants give her the same opportunity as other children and show people that she can accomplish anything with a little bit of help,” says her mom, Tammy. “I just want the judges to look at her, not her wheelchair.”
Mitochrondrial disease is classified as terminal, and most children diagnosed do not survive past their teen years. “We were told it would be a miracle if McKenzie made it to age 5,” Tammy says.
Her father says her personality shines through everything McKenzie does: “She’s like a puppy dog that doesn’t say a word but always has their tail wagging. There’s no way you can be unhappy around her.”
Mike Carey spends the bulk of his days as a truck driver, supporting McKenzie and her siblings. His wife, Tammy, is a stay-at-home mom who has always had an affinity for pageants.
“She can’t take gymnastics or dance, but pageants are something she can do,” explains Tammy.