CLEVELAND — When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States, Ohio's message was "in this together" and people like Mercedes Mackey of Euclid took that message to heart.
Mackey started creating “blinged” out masks for cancer patients. Her kind gesture even caught the eye of singer and television host Kelly Clarkson, who invited Mackey to appear on her show virtually last November.
“I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it,” Mackey recalls. “When somebody said, ‘you’re going to be on the Kelly Clarkson (show),’ I said, ‘you got to be kidding me.’”
Mackey, who is a patient access representative at University Hospitals’ Seidman Cancer Center, says she has made more than 300 masks for cancer patients and their families during the pandemic.
“I tend to gravitate towards people who come from dark places because I feel like I want to give them some of my light so they can shine,” Mackey shares.
The Cleveland native says she was teased and bullied growing up, which led her not to love who she saw in the mirror.
“I used to pray to God and write in my diary, ‘if I ever found the light where I would love myself, I would shine for so many people,’” Mackey remembers. “The man upstairs, he gave me a light.”
During the pandemic, that light is manifesting though her mask creations.
“Making these masks is therapeutic to me because my goal in life is to make a patient feel comfortable.”
Patients like Carrie Leon of Aurora, a two-time cancer survivor who met Mackey during her treatments before the pandemic.
“She's just got a glow about her,” Leon says. “I'm thinking like ‘does she know what I'm coming in for?’”
Leon calls Mackey her angel after a family friend tearfully told her, “she was placed there for you.”
“Without a doubt God placed her there for a reason 100 percent,” Leon expresses. “She’s permanently embedded into my story.”
Mackey says she makes about 10 to 15 masks a week to give away to female patients at the start and end of their treatments. She does it all free of charge.
“The profit is I have made someone smile,” Mackey explains. “I always tell people if you see someone without a smile, give them yours.”
Those who have encountered Mackey are now easily identifiable.
“You don't know who she's touched...but I've seen people with the masks, and you know there's one,” adds Leon. “It's pretty awesome!”
Mackey is in awe of how her act of kindness is showing itself to be the fruit of what she believes is an answered prayer from her childhood.
“Something so small to me just blew up and just made me appreciate my life and thank God for the light He's given me."