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9-year-old raises $22K on Kickstarter to prove teasing brothers wrong

By Stephanie Grimes | Posted - Mar 31st, 2013 @ 10:15am

STEVENSVILLE, Md. — A 9-year-old girl has raised $23,000 to develop a video game after her brothers teased her about not being able to learn the skill, but the campaign has raised questions about whether her mother exploited her gender to fund a project she could have afforded on her own.

Mackenzie Wilson, 9, launched a campaign earlier this month on crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise $829 to attend a role-playing design camp for 9- to 12-year-olds. In her product pitch, she talks about how she likes to do things her older brothers like to do and isn't a "girlie girl."

"Maybe if I sisters it would be different, but I really love my family (even when my brothers are mean to me) so I guess this is the way my life is supposed to be," she said.

Mackenzie wanted to create a Role Playing Game that would not be too violent or profane, and the RPG camp was how she wanted to do it. Her brothers told her there was no way she could raise $829 — plus, she was a girl. So she raised $23,000.

"I want to be a role model for kids - but especially to girls so there are more girls in tech because I don't want to be the only girl in the room," she said.

Some have raised questions about the project, though, saying Mackenzie's mother, Susan Wilson, could have afforded the camp on her own and was manipulating her daughter's gender for money.

Wilson was CEO of The Judgement Group for eight years and one of Fortune magazine's top 10 most powerful female entrepreneurs in 2009.

Wilson said she didn't think of the implication of her own financial position on Mackenzie's campaign. She said when her daughter said she wanted to go to the camp, she asked how the 9-year-old would earn the money to make it happen.

"There was no grand plan. This was an $829 campaign; it was like a craft party on the weekends," she told CBS News. "I didn't think about the implications, I didn't think beyond that."

Wilson said it was not intended to be "a gender thing" and stood up for her sons, who she said were just acting like siblings when they teased Mackenzie.

"It was one moment in time," she said. "It doesn't mean they're horrible people."

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