Filling the glass for autism awareness

Lemonade stands are a favourite summer pastime for children, but a Kelowna boy hopes selling juice will change lives.

MJ McAnerney was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, and after many years of developmental delays and behavioural issues, MJ was given a four-legged gift, Kylie. Kylie is a support dog that provides MJ with a sense of calmness, she keeps him safe and helps with positive changes in his behaviour.

MJ's love for Kylie prompted the eight-year-old to want to help other children like him get a support dog.

The idea came to him after his father Marshall McAnerney, explained he would be playing in the Ernie Els for Autism golf tournament at the Shaughnessy Golf Club in Vancouver, back in May.

"I told MJ we were going to raise money for autism and MJ said, 'I would like to do a lemonade stand and help raise money so I can help somebody else to get a support dog like I have.'"

MJ held his first juice stand at the tournament, it brought in $250 and his online donations through the Ernie Els for Autism Canada website raised almost $30,000. This made Team MJ the top fundraiser in the entire country.

"Ernie Els has a son with autism, he is a year older than MJ. Ernie decided to use his name to help autism and to raise awareness, funds, and to help provide a better life for kids on the Autism spectrum," explains Marshall McAnerney.

As MJ's favourite juice is SunRype, it was no trouble convincing the company to become a sponsor as his uncle is the President of SunRype and a major supporter autism awareness.

"It is a hugely important charity and we are fully supportive of it because it affects so many lives, I think one in 54 boys born in British Columbia will have some form of autism," says Dave McAnerney. "So that is a lot of parents looking for solutions and I think Ernie Els is one of the first guys to really put a spotlight on it."

MJ's father says his son is still dealing with many challenges such as multiple ambulance rides due to seizure disorders. However it is MJ's younger brother Jack who really helps lend a hand.

Jack, who is a partner in MJ's juice stand says he and his brother fight just like any other siblings would, but they also play together.

"When me and him play, other people don't usually want to play," explains Jack.

Marshall says MJ leads a pretty normal life, but he does play differently than other children.

"He goes to school, he is usually happy, he can be incredibly stubborn, but we get him up and off to school most days," he says of his son who would love to play with the iPad all day if he was allowed.

Team MJ is hoping to raise reach the $30,000 goal mark, which would mean the McAnerney family flies down to Las Vegas to meet with Ernie Els for the grand finale Golden Circle Club.

To help them reach their goal click here.

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