By Allie Brown, CNN
Alpharetta, Georgia (CNN) - A disease that Mackenzie Bearup compares to a bomb going off in her knee prompted the 16-year-old to seek escape in the comfort of reading. Now she's helping thousands of troubled children soothe their own pain - within the pages of donated books.
"When I read, it's a real escape," Bearup says. "I try to take myself into the book instead of in the real world where I'm in so much pain."
Her personal discovery that books could be used to ease discomfort was an idea that Bearup ultimately chose to share with homeless and abused children throughout the country.
Bearup's journey began six years ago when she was jumping on a bed and dancing to TV's "American Idol." Suddenly her knee started "hurting unexplainably, extremely bad," she recalls. The next day, the fifth grader's knee swelled to the size of a grapefruit. After a week on crutches, it was even worse. Her knee collapsed when she tried to walk. FULL STORY