Andrew Emery always wanted to be a big brother.
He got his wish earlier this year, when Dylan was born – allowing 9-year-old Andrew to unleash the affections and enthusiasm that had built up during his mother’s pregnancy.
“I wanted her to have a boy. There’s too many girls at home,” Andrew said.
Now, as Dylan fights for his life after being diagnosed with Krabbe disease, a rare and often lethal neurological condition, Andrew put that love into action – spearheading a lemonade fundraiser on Saturday morning that raised nearly $6,000 in just two hours to help with medical bills.
“I’m gonna spend it on doctor’s bills and stuff, and buy him a teddy bear too,” Andrew said. “I just want to help Dylan. He’s my baby brother.”
Dylan’s benefiting from the power of community on several levels. His father, Matt, is a Greenwood County deputy, so law enforcement has turned out in force to help one of their own.
Andrew attends Woodfields Elementary in Greenwood, and the dedication to his brother has inspired the tight-knit world of educators to further his efforts.
“We’re praying for that baby, and I’d do anything in the world to help Andrew,” said Jeannie Davis, an instructional assistant at Andrew’s school.
Dylan remains in a Pittsburgh hospital, where Matt and his wife, Melissa, are seeking further medical advice from specialists.
On Tuesday, Melissa posted a message to Team DYLAN, a Facebook page set up to give updates on his condition.
She said the outpouring of support and message of prayer are giving the family sustenance.
“The calls, texts, thoughts and prayers have been continuous and so numerous we can’t count. We r so appreciative!! Please keep them coming because we r grasping at each one to help us through the day. For the people who are doing fundraisers and donating. I will never be able to repay u for helping us but please know we r so thankful and I pray that God will bless u to the end of the earth!!,” she wrote.
In addition to the $5,860 Andrew raised on Saturday, a benefit concert Friday night at Howard’s on Main brought in $1,300 more, while performers Jackson Station and Johnny Badlove donated their earnings to the cause.
There’s also a GoFundMe account set up, which has raised more than $5,600 in less than a week.
Besides the cups of lemonade, Andrew was selling custom #teamdylan T-shirts and window decals, and encouraged patrons to sign a poster board for Dylan. More than 700 shirts have already been sold.
Andrew wasn’t alone on Saturday.
“We just want everybody to pray for him, and we want everyone to be happy,” 9-year-old Kaden Pace, one of Andrew’s close friends, said.
Andrew said he was surprised by the huge response.
“It’s crazy. It’s really, really crazy. I’ve never seen it before.”
Andrew’s mother, Kristal Nelson, watched her son and could only smile.
“It’s really hard to explain to a 9-year-old what’s happening. From the minute he found out he was going to be a big brother, he was in love with it,” she said. “I see every day that he’s special, and now everybody else can, too.”
Emery’s family has found strength in scripture as well – particularly from Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Shery Ferqueron, Dylan’s great aunt, said the prayers and generosity have been given to her family was uplifting.
“It’s great, and we really appreciate it. Andrew’s a great big brother,” she said.
Andrew communicates with Dylan regularly online through Facetime, smiling as he does. Dylan is expected home this week, and big brother has big plans for that moment.
“I’m going to hug him,” Andrew said.
The people behind the Facebook page started another bank account to benefit the Emery family, people can donate at Greenwood Municipal Credit Union under the “Dylan Emery Benefit” account.
For the latest information about fundraisers or to purchase Dylan-related items, visit Team DYLAN at facebook.com/teamdylan96.
Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.