Makenna with the 33 wagons she collected last year.

Makenna Schwab is at it again. She’s a 12-year-old on a philanthropic mission to raise more than $10,000 for Seattle Children’s, a place she says saved her life.

Makenna, who donated 33 red Radio Flyer wagons to the hospital last December, has two new goals this year: raise money for a low radiation X-ray machine for kids at the hospital, and fund a years worth of “MakPaks” for inpatient families. MakPaks provide a bag of groceries to parents and caregivers who don’t want to leave their child’s bedside or can’t afford food during extended hospital stays.

Drawing inspiration through hospital stays

Radio Flyer wagons helped Makenna travel the halls of the hospital while she was inpatient.

Born with an incredibly rare skeletal disorder called Larsen syndrome, which causes bone dislocations throughout her body, Makenna has been through a lot in her short life, and has spent a lot of time at Seattle Children’s. Since birth, Makenna has been seen by specialists in the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Department regularly. To date, her longest time away from the hospital has been six months. Through countless hospital stays and surgeries to help treat her complex condition, she says she strives to see the silver lining find new ways to help other kids like her. It’s through this determination and her giving spirit that she hopes to inspire others to make a difference this Saturday on national Make a Difference Day.

It’s on this day that she’s asking others to support her in reaching her $10,000 goal by donating to her cause, or be inspired to start their own project to support a cause that is most meaningful to them. For Makenna, nothing is more meaningful than supporting Seattle Children’s and other kids like her.

“Seattle Children’s really has been like a second home to me,” said Makenna. “The hospital has performed both life-changing and life-saving surgeries for me. They have so many great people there and have done such amazing things for me. I just want to give back and help other kids like me.”

A spirit of giving turns into a yearly tradition

Inspired by Makenna’s experience at her “second home,” in 2011, she and her mother Melissa decided to support the hospital by launching a fundraiser timed with Make A Difference Day they called “Kids Helping Kids.” In their first year, Makenna sold lemonade and cookies and raised more than $6,700 for Seattle Children’s. In 2012, they decided to make the fundraiser an annual event, but each year they would do something new. That year, Makenna collected and donated 650 new toys with the hope of bringing some joy to kids in the hospital. In 2013, she sold 530 dozens of donuts and collected more than $7,500. Last year, she raised money for 33 red Radio Flyer wagons, her favorite mode of transportation around the hospital as a little girl when she was in body casts due to her condition. And in recognition, Makenna was awarded a national grant to continue her charitable work.

“There is nothing like seeing the effects of our fundraising efforts around Make A Difference Day each year,” said Makenna. “Like seeing the red wagons being used throughout the hospital, or the playroom filled with new toys, knowing that a child will have a present for Christmas or for a birthday. I can’t wait see the effects of this of upcoming year.”

Making her dreams come true

Makenna accepts a $10,000 grant at a USA Today hosted award event in Washington D.C.

Makenna’s quest this year holds even more meaning for her as she is supporting a cause close to her heart.

The low radiation X-ray machine she hopes to fund, called an EOS system, lowers the risk of radiation exposure for kids like her who require regular imaging throughout their treatment. Seattle Children’s already uses radiation doses consistently lower than the guidelines recommend by the American College of Radiology (ACR), but this machine would help lower the risk even further

“I’ve had more X-rays than I can count,” said Makenna. “Every hospital visit includes an X-ray, and I have had a lot of visits. I wanted to put this year’s money toward something that would help other kids like me. Through camps and hospital stays, I’ve met a lot of other kids with similar conditions. This machine would make X-rays safer, and that’s really cool!”

The idea for raising money for “MakPaks” came from a conversation Makenna had with her favorite nurse, Brenda Eng, and a group of social workers who distribute bags of food to inpatient families.

“It seemed like something very doable and tangible for a community to get behind,” said Eng. “It’s like an emergency kit. It includes things that can be made at the bedside – noodles, juices, granola bars – things that really make a difference if you can’t leave the room or afford to buy your own groceries.”

Makenna with Seattle Children’s nurse Brenda Eng.

“We decided to do the packs this year because I’ve had a lot of close family friends go to Seattle Children’s and it seemed like something that was so simple that could also really make a difference in someone’s day,” said Makenna.

Makenna hopes to continue her “Kids Helping Kids” tradition next year with a new project to benefit the hospital. Until then, she hopes her story will inspire others to make a difference and follow their passions.

“She’s just an amazing girl,” said Eng. “She’s going to change the world.”