Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Oliver Image by: Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Oliver
Nearly six years later, the club has more than 800 members and has raised more than $35,000 for Gilda's Club, a group that offers support to cancer patients and their families, and other charities. She volunteered in Kenya this past summer and learned about self-esteem issues in a different part of the world.
Mackenzie's efforts have earned her the Me to We award for Youth in Action for kids aged 12 and under. Her $5,000 award money will be donated to Kids Help Phone.
Canadian Living: You have all made a difference in the world. What motivated you?
Mackenzie Oliver: When I was in Grade 3, I went into the washroom and my friends were sitting in front of the mirror, crying, because they thought they were fat. That made me really upset. That's when my mom explained self-esteem to me.
So that year, for my birthday party, I created T-shirts that said "I love me." I started a self-esteem group, and I've raised money for a children's charity, Oxfam International and a women's shelter. I don't think it's right to wait until you're older to make a change.
CL: Have there been hurdles along the way?
Mackenzie: Most adults thought it was a phase; I'd grow out of it. But Craig [Kielburger] said that people thought Me to We was a small thing. You have to take your thoughts and put them into action, or the world won't change into a better place.
CL: Was there an 'Aha! moment' that reaffirmed your mission?
Mackenzie: When I started the I Love Me Club, I held garage sales. I was freaked out, but my mom would say, "You made the commitment and you're helping someone else." Then one day there was a girl with Down syndrome who heard me on the radio [talking about a fundraiser]. She came down and handed me her piggy bank. She said she was constantly made fun of at school and she made her mom drive her all the way down.
Page 1 of 2 -- Find out who got an honourable mention for Me to We's Youth in Action (ages 12 and under) award on page 2
CL: So what's next for you?
Mackenzie: The I Love Me Club has 851 members around the world. I want to have 1,000 by next year. And I'll be going to Kenya [to complete the first Free the Children health clinic in the Masai Mara National Reserve, which Stephanie worked on last year].
Honourable mentions for Me to We's Youth in Action (ages 12 and under) award
• Miranda Andersen of Belcarra, B.C., has been using film and public speaking to raise awareness about environmental issues since she was nine years old. Now 12, she's producing a film on nature deficit disorder, a term that refers to the disconnect between individuals and nature.
• Mary Jo O'Connor has fundraised for a local food bank, UNICEF and Free the Children. The Kitchener, Ont., native organized a Celebrate for Change fundraising party for her 11th birthday and raised more than $700.