SALEM, N.H. — Makayla Mahoney vowed to do something special to show her love and support for her young cousin who was gravely ill before having a heart transplant last Sunday.
So, the 8-year-old Methuen girl will run a lemonade stand tomorrow in front of her aunt’s house at 4 Ackerman St. to benefit Max Johnson, who is recovering at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“I got the idea because I do lemonade stands a lot and I make lots of money, and I wanted to do something to help Max,” said Makayla, who will be a third-grader at the Comprehensive Grammar School in Methuen this fall.
“He’s two and a half years old. I heard he had a really bad heart and was dying. So if he didn’t get a new heart, he would die. I love him so much, and I care, and I want to do as many things as I can to help him,” she said.
In a gesture of being “heart strong” — part of the slogan on the “Mighty Max” poster she made for the front of the lemonade stand — Makayla has a can of red hair spray she intends to use on herself for tomorrow’s fund-raiser, which will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Makayla said she will also sell “Mighty Max Heart Strong” T-shirts she designed and red wrist bands. All of the proceeds will go to the Mighty Max Johnson Family Fund. Check donations can also be made to the fund at PO Box 1701, Westfield, MA 01086.
Max, who turns 3 in October, is the son of Matt and Nicole Johnson, of Holyoke. The young boy’s story has won the heart of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Boston Red Sox star pitcher Jon Lester, the New England Revolution soccer team players, the DropKick Murphy’s and others who have made contributions and visited Max. Photos and letters of their support have been posted on a special web site, www.mightymaxheart.com.
“He was born with a congenital heart defect and within the first year of his life, he had a pacemaker put in,” said Melanie Kane, Makayla’s aunt and the Salem woman who is hosting the lemonade stand tomorrow.
“This January, Max began experiencing trouble. In February, they did surgery to fix some of the issues he was having. He came home and seemed fine, but by April, he was back and forth between Holyoke and Boston Children’s Hospital. On Mother’s Day, he was taken by ambulance and sent to Boston Children’s Hospital, where they found Max in severe heart failure, Kane said.
“On May 31, he was put on heart transplant list as 1-A, which is the highest priority. Things got worse and worse every week until last Saturday. He was on his way to ICU department, when the family learned there was a heart available. Last Sunday, at 2:30 a.m., the heart arrived. Since then, he’s been doing great,” she said.
Makayla was determined to do something to help her ailing cousin, even after initiating the idea for T-shirts back in June. She had the website marked on the back of the shirt “so people can go on the website and read about how Max is sick and how they can donate money to help.”
“I like doing fund-raisers a lot because you gotta work hard,” Makayla said. “And if you helped save someone’s life by working hard, it makes me feel good.”
Makayla has set up her lemonade stand at her aunt’s house to help a number of causes, including leukemia and lymphoma.
“Her biggest cause is autism awareness because her mom works with autistic kids,” Kane said of her niece.
“Max has been close to heart because he’s family and she’s scared for him. She’s a loving person with a big heart. Makayla is very altruistic. She says when she gets older, she wants to find a job where she can use the love she has for people and also to help people. She talked about becoming a doctor or police officer. She said when she dies, she wants to leave a legacy of what a kind person she was,” Kane said.
“Lemonade has been her go-to raiser. We’ve got 10 gallons ready to go. She wants her aunt to get lemons to slice up to put inside,” she said.
Makayla’s expectations for tomorrow are huge, her aunt noted. They already have 150 plastic cups and are going to get 150 more in case they are needed.
Melissa Mahoney, Makayla’s mom, made up flyers which are tucked inside about 100 mail boxes in the area.
Mahoney said her daughter has been very concerned about her cousin for months and had previously gone out and sold wrist bands to her classmates. Makayla also made a giant card for Max, which she got her classmates to sign. She’ll get more signatures from supporters tomorrow.
“Makayla talks about Max a lot and lets people know all about her cousin,” Mahoney said.
“The gym teacher came up to me and said I should be so proud of her. I am, and it’s been great to watch her. We’re just grateful to the donor family for helping Max live,” she said.