(PIX11) – A 12-year-old girl living with an incurable disease stole the show at a summer pageant with the help of her loving father, who lifted her from her wheelchair and danced with her to the teary delight of an in-house audience and more than 3.2 million YouTube viewers.
In front of a sparkly, flowery backdrop, the pair glides across the stage to Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb,” a song about strength and savoring the journey, no matter how trying.
Kenzie Carey grins widely as her dad dips and spins her, gently returns her to her wheelchair and seals the performance with a kiss on the cheek.
The 4-minute tear-jerker was posted June 17. In less than a week, it’s garnered more than 3.2 million views – and widespread awareness of the little girl’s illness.
Kenzie has been diagnosed with a type of mitochondrial disease. Her family lives in Georgia, but travels more than 500 miles to Florida for specialized treatment, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, according to a Gofundme account created for her.
The family says this treatment isn’t covered by insurance and is relying on the generosity of strangers – nearly 6,000 of whom have donated more than $50,000 as of early Monday – to continue Kenzie’s therapy.
“As a mother of a special needs child, there is nothing I won’t do to help improve my daughter’s quality of life. She is such an inspiration to everyone she meets,” Tammy Michelle Carey wrote on the fundraising page.
There are several types of the disease Kenzie has, which primarily affects children and causes cell deterioration because the mitochondria cannot produce enough energy to power cells, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The cells’ failure to create energy most severely damages patients’ brain, muscles, heart, liver, kidney and endocrine and respiratory systems, health officials say.
There is currently no known cure for the disease but physical therapy can help improve patients’ dexterity compromised by the illness.