In anticipation of her 10th birthday, Mackenzie Moretter and her family sent party invites to each of her fourth grade classmates in hopes of a fun-filled celebration. After not hearing back from a single classmate, her mother, Jenny Moretter turned to social media in a last-ditch effort to organize some type of birthday event for her daughter. The Facebook post went viral and in just a few hours, hundreds of people from the Shakopee, Minnesota area hopped on board to give Mackenzie a birthday party she'll never forget.
Mackenzie suffers from Sotos syndrome, a rare genetic condition that according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), causes intellectual disability and behavioral problems. Struggling to make friends in school, Mackenzie never fathomed that over 300 people would come and celebrate her birthday.
Bills tight end MarQueis Gray resides in the Minneapolis area and was informed of Mackenzie's situation by his wife Alley, who stumbled upon to the Facebook post just hours before the event. While they didn't personally know the Moretter family, MarQueis and his wife took it upon themselves to go out and support Mackenzie on her special day. Once Gray arrived to the local park where the event was held, he was stunned by the outpouring of love and support that the community demonstrated.
"There were tables full of gifts from all the kids that came," said Gray. "There were so many kids crowded around Mackenzie and she was having the time of her life. I was able to meet her dad and we interacted for a bit. He went and got Mackenzie so that we could take a picture together. I told Mackenzie how proud I was of her and that I was there to support her."
Photos of Bills TE and quarterback-at-heart MarQuies Gray.
Also at the party was Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson, who happened to play with Gray in Cleveland throughout the majority of the 2013 season. Gray had no idea that his former teammate and good friend would be there to support Mackenzie.
"It was great to see him," said Gray. "Some people see us (NFL players) as the opposite of who we are so it's great to represent our families, our team, and the whole NFL in a positive manner."
A former quarterback for head coach Jerry Kill at the University of Minnesota, Gray established himself as a leader with strong core values. When coach Kill heard that his former signal caller attended Mackenzie's party, he wasn't the least bit shocked.
"I would like to tell you that it surprises me, but it doesn't," said Kill. "That is the way MarQueis has been since the day I met him. He is a very giving person. A great father, husband, and a great role model."
Gray is beyond grateful to have an opportunity that allows him to make a positive impact on others. Humbled by his situation, the 25-year-old will never forget his younger days when he had the chance to meet NFL players that he admired so much.
"I can't even put it into words," admitted Gray. "I was a kid once and I used to go to the Rod Woodson football camp and he used to have NFL guys come in and I looked forward to that every year. I still remember those guys who came and I just want to be able to make a difference in kids' lives so that when they grow up in the future they can look back and see that this does make a difference for them."