Johnson’s wife, Kalyn, saw a Facebook post from Mackenzie’s mother, Jenny, alerting anyone who wanted to help that her daughter – who was diagnosed with Sotos Syndrome, which causes “physical overgrowth in the first year of life,” according to the sotosyndrome.org – wasn’t getting responses from her classmates for her 10th birthday party. It was an emotional plea that generated hundreds of people from the Shakopee community and beyond to attend her party on Saturday. Johnson and his family were among those in attendance after Kalyn contacted Mackenzie’s mother following the Facebook post.
“It was a no-brainer,” Johnson said of his attendance. “We ended up going because I have three daughters of my own and if something was to happen and I put something out there I would hope that somebody would come and attend their party.”
In fact, Johnson had a scare of his own with one of his daughters when doctors initially thought she might have cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disorder that causes damage to the lungs and digestive system. Turns out, his daughter didn’t have cystic fibrosis, but those fears created natural and long-lasting empathy for other children dealing with hardships.
Because of Sotos Syndrome, Mackenzie has had a difficult time creating friendships.
“I’m really sensitive to that anyways. When I heard the story, (Jenny) said that Mackenzie doesn’t have friends at school and her dad sees her a lot of times playing by herself,” Johnson said. “I was just like, that’s kind of crazy because as humans I think we should all be respectful to everybody.
“… It’s just weird to think that just because she’s a little bit different that people don’t want to play with her or attend her party and everything.”
Johnson didn’t just attend; he came bearing gifts for Mackenzie. Included were a pink Vikings shirt with Johnson’s name and number, pink shoes, other clothes to complement the outfit, and toys.
While Mackenzie’s story circulated in media accounts before her party on Saturday, Johnson didn’t want the media to know in advance that he would be attending. The focus, he said, was to remain on Mackenzie and not his attendance at the party.
“It was a good turnout at the party and I just wanted to express to her that it’s OK to be different,” Johnson said. “It’s not a crime to be different. I pride myself on being different because sometimes if the whole crowd is going to the right, sometimes you want to go left because if you follow the crowd you’re only going to go as far as the crowd goes. I just want to tell people that and it’s OK to be different; it’s not a negative. If people don’t want to be your friend, those aren’t the type of people that you want to be around anyways.”
Johnson said Mackenzie was kept so busy that he didn’t have much time to talk with her, but he proved in his limited conversations and with his attendance that he is the type of athlete that is promoting good.
I was blessed and honored to meet and help celebrate Mackenzie Moretter birthday today! Thank u so much for having us pic.twitter.com/6iY2PnpQEx— Charles Johnson (@MrInkredibleXII) April 18, 2015