Mike Carey, of Dallas, Georgia, never imagined that he would be participating in pageants. But as dancing partner to his 12-year-old daughter McKenzie, Carey has spent a good amount of time on stage.
McKenzie has mitochondrial disease, which affects the 12-year-old’s ability to speak and move and has left her in a wheelchair.
The disease results from the failure of mitochondria, which are responsible for 90 percent of the body’s energy. As the mitochondria fail, so do the cells. According to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, mitochondrial disease usually damages cells in heart, liver and skeletal muscles and respiratory systems, as well as the brain.
McKenzie’s mother, Tammy Carey, started putting her daughter into pageants at age 5 as a way to bond with her daughter and to help McKenzie meet new friends.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to help our daughter and help her enjoy life, and pageants give her an opportunity to be like other children,” said Tammy Carey, who noted that McKenzie can’t speak but understands those around her.
However, McKenzie’s condition confined her to a wheelchair, creating a problems for the competition.
Since Tammy Carey refused to enter her daughter only in pageants for special needs children, she had to figure out a plan for McKenzie when she was needed to perform onstage. Eventually during a particularly hectic pageant day, Mike Carey had an idea.
“You leave it up to me,” Mick Carey told his wife before taking the stage with his daughter. “I wheeled her up on the stage and I did a wheelie across the stage and I picked her up [to dance]. ... I made up a dance in my head. The crowd went crazy.”
The pair has been performing together in pageants ever since and Mike Carey estimates he’s planned out seven dances for his daughter. McKenzie has won about 20 pageants, according to her mom.
At a recent pageant, Carey’s son taped the pair’s latest performance and put it online to raise awareness about the disease as the family raises money online to fund medical treatments for McKenzie. In just two days the video has already gotten more than 220,000 views with people as far as New Zealand chiming in.
“I’m like ‘Holy cow where did this come from?’” said Mike Carey.
The pair aren’t stopping now. They’re already planning to attend a national pageant in Nebraska. McKenzie’s mom is working on the outfits and make-up and her dad is already choreographing his next dance.
“If I get one person [inspired], it made the whole song and whole thing worthwhile,” said Carey. “It’s like an unspoken message. This dance is alike an unspoken testimony and shows bond and love between a father and daughter.”