By Kamden Darney
Seven years ago, Ole Miss punter Mac Brown sold his first cup of lemonade from his “Awesome Lemonade Stand.” Brown’s goal was to raise $500 to help Michael Brandt, a friend’s father who had recently been diagnosed with ALS.
According to Johns Hopkins Medical Research Center, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a debilitating disease which causes degeneration of the motor nerve cells in the brain. It affects as many as 30,000 people in the United States, with 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
This modest goal quickly became a reality after Brown’s fundraiser raised more than $2,000 in the first year alone. Brown’s lemonade stand was set up on a late June day in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. It grew extremely successful, gaining popularity throughout the community and across the state.
The stand’s popularity grew so vast that it was sponsored by the ALS Institute in Boston.
The Awesome Lemonade Stand is now considered a community event in Eden Prairie and people come from all around come to help out.
“That first year we had people from all around coming out to help us with the stand,” Brown said. “They would make signs and even start their own stands and donate their earnings to us. Ever since, it’s been a way for the community to come together and join a great cause.”
Brown recalls that the “Awesome Lemonade Stand” started to receive donations from people all over the United States after he created a website.
“The website was a great opportunity for people to donate that can’t visit the stand… we’ve received donations from all across America,” Brown said.
Brown has since used his notoriety as the punter for the Ole Miss football team to help spread the word about the stand and raise donations.
“I’ve been able to reach a lot of people because I am the punter,” said Brown. “The Ole Miss football team has tweeted about it, bringing in lots of donations from Rebel fans and college football fans everywhere. The stand was even mentioned on ESPN during a game.”
Brown has help from fellow players as well. Mike Taylor, a long snapper for Ole Miss, says all of the players know of Brown’s stand and think it’s a great way to raise awareness.
“I think it’s awesome that Mac uses his platform to help others,” Taylor said. “He has a lot of fun doing it, too. He is very enthusiastic about the cause and it spreads to the other players as well. We love telling people about Mac’s stand and asking them to donate.”
When Brown took the money he raised at the stand to his friend’s dad, he declined and told Brown to donate the money to ALS research. Today, the “Awesome Lemonade Stand” has raised upwards of $50,000 for ALS research. Though ALS claimed Brandt’s life, Brown’s stand is there as a tribute to him for years to come.