For McKenzie Zepp's 13th birthday, she asked her family and friends for one gift: a donation to the Carroll Hospital Center's Carroll Regional Cancer Center.
At her birthday party Jan. 3, the seventh-grader at West Middle School received a birthday gift larger than she ever imagined.
Her goal was to raise a "couple of hundred dollars," she said.
Through donations from family and friends, she raised $1,038 for the hospital's cancer center.
"If it weren't for all the friends and family who showed up, I wouldn't have been able to make it possible," McKenzie said. "It was way over what we thought we could raise."
Brenda Frazier, director of campaigns and special programs with the Carroll Hospital Center Foundation, said the foundation was "thrilled" to accept a gift that showed a teenager thinking about others instead of herself.
"It definitely gives us faith in the youth we have in our community," she said.
The Carroll Regional Cancer Center is in the midst of constructing a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center and a community wellness center. The $28 million project is expected to open this fall.
Frazier said patient care at the center will be "greatly impacted" by McKenzie's gift when it opens.
McKenzie, who wants to pursue a nursing career, collected the funds during her 13th birthday party at the Westminster American Legion. About 50 people attended.
She said she almost cried when the final results were tallied because she was so happy.
McKenzie said she wanted to donate to the cancer center because her grandparents were treated there and a family friend died from cancer just before Thanksgiving.
"I wanted to do something for them because they help a lot of people," she said of the cancer center.
McKenzie said she was also partly inspired by a cousin who had donated money in lieu of birthday gifts to an area animal shelter years before.
She said she had wanted to make a donation in lieu of birthday gifts since then, but wasn't sure where to donate until a family friend, Gina Barnes, died the day before Thanksgiving.
"I wanted to do it in memory of her because she was very inspiring and she did a lot of good things for the community," said McKenzie, whose family knew Barnes through youth sports leagues.
"Hopefully, we can help people so they don't have to go through the loss that we did with Gina and my grandparents," she said.
Laura Zepp, McKenzie's mother, said she wasn't surprised when her daughter approached her with the idea.
"That's just the kind of person she is," Zepp said. "She's always been very caring."
Zepp said the family never dreamed the result would be more than $1,000.
"Without the friends and family that showed up, she would never have been able to follow through with what she wanted to do," she said. "They all made it happen for her and we couldn't believe it. We couldn't wait to present it [the donation]."
Frazier said the hospital receives donations similar to McKenzie's "once and awhile" with the most recent a $25,000 donation from the Carroll County 4H and FFA Fair.
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