Inspiration Report

When 16-year-old Mackenzie Bearup from Alpharetta, Georgia was diagnosed with the disease Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) about six years ago, she escaped the terrible pain she felt in her knee by reading books.

Bearup had been jumping on her bed while watching the TV show “American Idol” when unbearable pain shot through her knee.  Within a week, her knee swelled and then collapsed.  Even though doctors eventually diagnosed Bearup with RSD, “medications and treatments failed to alleviate the constant pain” and Bearup was bedridden for several months while she dealt with the pain. (

Before you continue reading, watch a video of Mackenzie Bearup:

Right now, there is no cure for RSD, a chronic disease where the skin on certain parts of the body swells and there is severe pain.  While RSD is not genetic and might occur as a result of injury or surgery, there is no concrete explanation for what causes RSD.  In the case of Bearup, she had no known injuries or surgeries to her knee when the disease struck.

While in bed and unable to walk, Bearup read books to take her mind off the pain.  When she heard a treatment center for abused children needed books for a newly-built library, she set out to donate books by asking everyone she knew, starting a website, placing ads in newspapers, and distributing flyers around the neighborhood.  As a result of her efforts, she donated 3,000 books to the treatment center to help inspire, encourage, and motivate children.

In 2009, she started her own non-profit organization, Sheltering Books.  She continues to donate books to abused and homeless children.  In two years, she has donated 38,000 books to libraries and reading rooms in 27 different shelters in six states.  Bearup has also created pamphlets to encourage reading programs and crafts related to books.

From a place of empathy, love, and understanding, Bearup is helping other kids find a positive outlet for their own pain, whether emotional or physical. 

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