Every day, 15 people are diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and about 5,600 new cases are diagnosed per year, according to alsa.org.
Better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a disease that attacks the body’s nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. The disease takes away a person’s strength, and eventually makes them immobile. There is currently no cure for ALS.
Mac Brown, a junior University of Mississippi student and starting punter on the Ole Miss Rebels Football Team, hopes to change that.
Brown first learned about ALS in grade school when his friend’s father, Michael Brandt, was diagnosed. Brown said he wanted to, “find any way to help out Mr. Brandt and his family.” So, Brown started the Awesome Lemonade Stand as a way for a young kid to raise money on his own and hopefully help Brandt with his bucket list.
After Brandt passed away from ALS, one of Brown’s mother’s friends was diagnosed with ALS, and the disease began to affect Brown “on a very personal level. It was just tough to see these families go through these tragedies that no one should ever go through.”
Brown knew that he had to do more.
While he was still doing the lemonade stand every year, he knew he had to find a way to bring in more proceeds for research. He contacted the ALS foundation, and came up with a website, where he could hopefully collect more proceeds.
“The website made it easier to get donations from people that were not just in the area,” said Brown, who lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Shortly after his mother’s friend died from ALS, Brown said coming to college was a great opportunity to spread the word even more.
“I ended up getting the Ole Miss ‘The Season’ video crew to do a little piece on my story, and it helped tremendously,” said Brown, who connected with the right people within the Ole Miss football program. He was even featured in a commercial that aired on the SEC Network.
“The commercial went really well because we started to get donations from people all over the country,” he said. “It was a great way to spread the word on ALS, and to get more people to donate.”
In the summer of 2018, the Ole Miss video crew traveled to Minnesota with Brown and produced a feature on the lemonade stand. They got a full understanding of what Brown has been doing for six years. Brown and his crew woke up at 6 a.m. and set up their lemonade stand in the streets of Eden Prairie.
“This summer was a really big step up for us,” Brown said. “It was almost unbelievable how many people came by, supported us, and donated.” The piece will be featured on one of the “The Season: Ole Miss Football” episodes this fall.
When the day was over, the Awesome Lemonade Stand received $15,000 for their efforts in 2018. That raised the six-year total to more than $48,000. All proceeds go to the ALS foundation, whose representatives Brown meets with and talks on the phone with throughout the year.
“It is always good to know that the money that we raise is going into the right hands after the fact,” he said. “They have been such a good partner to have.”
Teammate Luke Logan, who flew to Minnesota this summer to help Brown with the lemonade stand, said it was a full day of work. “The people in Mac’s neighborhood and community all around have really rallied around this great cause,” he said. “It was awesome to see that many people come out and show their support.”
The day of the lemonade stand is not as easy as it sounds, according to Logan. “We were up early that morning making gallons of lemonade,” he said.
In addition to keeping up with the stand, as well as trying to attract as many passersby as possible, the weather did not co-operate. “It rained pretty much all day, which made running an outside stand pretty difficult, but the donations and supporters were not bothered by it.”
Donations poured in for the operation, and the Awesome Lemonade Stand raised more in 2018 than they had in any prior year. Brown was thrilled with the turnout and hopes the lemonade stand gets bigger.
He said many people have approached him in Oxford, asking to get involved.
“Ole Miss has been a tremendous opportunity for me to keep spreading awareness,” he said, “and I hope that it keeps getting more and more attention. I think it is great anytime you can help out people that are in need, and the people suffering from ALS across the country need our help.”
Donations can be made here: https://www.classy.org/fundraiser/653665