Marit McKenzie’s best friend inspired her to connect with the David Foster Foundation

Calgary teen Marit McKenzie had a passion for her art, her family and her friends. Two years after her unexpected death, Marit’s commitment to raising awareness about organ donation continues to inspire those who knew her.

In grade 12, Marit began to work on a community service project about breast cancer. However, Marit changed the focus of her project when her best friend Paige Thakkar, whom she met in grade 3, experienced an episode of rejection related to her liver transplant that she received as a baby.

While Marit made regular visits to Paige in the hospital, she learned everything she could about her friend’s condition. In doing so, Marit came across the David Foster Foundation – a foundation dedicated to raising funds and awareness for organ transplants.

 Produced by Brittany Fong

Marit’s father, Bruce McKenzie recalls Marit’s commitment to making a difference with her service project.

“She went online and found the David Foster Foundation and she felt that this was an organization that she wanted to support. Paige’s family had lots of difficulties like lots of families do when they’re going through organ transplants,” says Bruce. “It really is hard and the David Foster Foundation raises money to help those families.”

Marit raised $500 from her artwork that she sold at an auction and wrote a cheque to the foundation.

“She was really disappointed because she figured that she would make about $2,000, but she wrote the cheque to David Foster and sent a letter off explaining what she did and she got a reply letter,” says Marit’s mother, Susan McKenzie. “And then six months later we lost her.”

Marit died after suffering a pulmonary embolism caused from a medication that she had been taking 15 months prior called Diane-35

“The nice thing is we knew her wishes. It’s kind of strange, but we knew at that young age that’s what she wanted,” says Susan.

When the first-year University of Calgary student died, her family was all too aware of her desire to have her organs donated. The family says Marit’s organs saved five lives, including a 13-year old boy who was the recipient of Marit’s heart.

Marit’s mother recalls her daughter saying that if no one had supported organ donation when her best friend Paige needed a liver, Marit would never have known Paige. “Their friendship was amazing,” says Susan. “It makes us feel great that other families don’t have to lose their loved one and don’t have to go through what we went through in losing our Marit.”

Since her passing, the Calgary Christian School has arranged a fundraising hockey tournament called the Marit Cup to raise funds and awareness about organ transplants. Last March, the Marit Cup raised $15,000 that was split between the David Foster Foundation and scholarships for the school.

Speaking about her sister, Britta McKenzie is still awed by Marit’s legacy.

“It blows my mind what my sister did. She saved five lives — that’s pretty amazing. Everyday thinking about what she did and who she was, I am so happy I was her sister.”

bfong@cjournal.ca