Editor’s Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve Santa Rosa County residents’ quality of life.
MILTON — The Andy Mac Foundation works to help local youths diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy live happier lives while keeping the legacy of Andy McDonald alive, according to Denise McDonald, Andy’s mother.
Andy’s family formed the foundation shortly after the 2008 Milton High graduate, who had DMD, died in November 2008. DMD is a rare, terminal form of muscular dystrophy; it mostly affects males. According to Denise, Andy — who everyone referred to as Andy Mac — was diagnosed with the illness when he was 4 years old.
“The prognosis is death, always,” Denise said. “There’s never another option… You as a parent just learn to deal with that news.”
According to Denise, the foundation funded scholarships for several years at Milton High, but no longer does.
“When [Andy’s] youngest sister graduated, we decided… that we would take our money and basically help the families of kids with [DMD],” Denise said. “When there’s a child diagnosed that we know about, we will go and help that family in any way we can. We help put on birthday parties; help put on fun events for the kids. We’ve sent a family on a trip before for the weekend. It just depends on what their needs are.”
Denise said that it was an emotional decision to start the foundation, and it continues to be a struggle.
“We love helping the families but we also get emotionally invested and sometimes that’s very difficult,” Denise said. “It profoundly affects families, tremendously. Sometimes families can have more than one child with it.”
Denise said they are currently brainstorming fundraising ideas. The Andy Mac Foundation put on a Monster Dash 5K for years until participation declined.
“We hope in the future to grow it into something bigger than what it is right now,” Denise said.
The money spent is only used for kids who have the same diagnosis as Andy did, according to Denise. She wants the community to remember the type of person Andy was.
“Andy was about having fun. My son lived his life not like he was dying but he lived his life to live,” Denise said. “The 18 years he was on his earth, that is how he spent his time: mission trips, helping others, he was just a normal kid; he just suffered from a very deadly disease.
“He did not ever let it slow him down. For that reason, we wanted to do the foundation so that we could keep his memory alive, and also with the time and money that we have, we would help the families of the kids that are diagnosed.”
The organization runs a Facebook page, AndyMac Foundation, to communicate with families, members of the foundation and the community.
Andy’s parents own Open Rose Florist in Milton and accept donations to the foundation at their business. Checks made out to the Andy Mac Foundation can be sent to 6434 Open Rose Drive, Milton.