MacKenzie Bier’s extraordinary shoe drive

Mackenzie Bier. Photo by Linda Bier.
Mackenzie Bier. Photo by Linda Bier.

Christmas, seen as a time for giving, often brings out the best in us. In MacKenize Bier’s case, I’m reminded of the Mary Ellen Chase quote: “Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind.”

MacKenzie Bier and her quest to provide running shoes for neighbouring kids is an inspiring story of a young person’s generous spirit, creativity and true belief in helping others. It’s an ongoing commitment that has spanned four years – her entire time at Leaside High School.

When I first met MacKenzie, I was struck by her deep knowledge of the needs of our neighbours in Thorncliffe Park as well as her ability to turn advocacy into action. Pointing out that child poverty rates in Thorncliffe are 10 times those in Leaside (over 50% to approximately 5%), she decided to help in her area of expertise – running shoes.

MacKenzie’s passion for running began at five years old and continues to this day as a competitive runner on the LHS Cross Country team. Knowing of the fun and opportunity she experienced through physical activity, MacKenzie decided to take action when she learned that many of the 1,500 students at Thorncliffe Park Public School were unable to truly participate in gym class. The reason? Their only pair of shoes wasn’t running shoes.

Mackenize started collecting gently used track shoes from Rolph Road School by first posting flyers, then leaving a collection box at the front entrance. Spurred on by that success, she expanded her efforts by engaging merchants such as Tajo Shoes on Bayview Ave. and Sporting Life.

This is no ordinary shoe drive. Concerned that the shoes didn’t appear new enough, Mackenize washed and reconditioned each pair until she knew anyone would be proud to wear them. To date, over 300 pairs of running shoes have been distributed to Thorncliffe students.

Next year MacKenzie will be going to university and will no longer be able to manage her program. She is desperately looking for someone to take over this worthy endeavour. If you’re interested, please let me know so that we can continue MacKenzie’s incredible efforts and keep kids running!

I’m looking forward to the Leaside Toy Drive & Guys Night Out Thurs., Dec. 7, 730 p.m. at the Leaside Pub. It’s a fun time that last year resulted in 3,200 gifts being delivered to primary students in Thorncliffe & Flemingdon Park. This year’s lofty goal is a gift for every child in primary school in those two communities. Only $20 at the door…and don’t forget to bring a friend!

About Jon Burnside 34 Articles
Jon Burnside is City Councillor for Ward 26.