By Elly Colwell
When 10-year-old Mack Mejaski struggles with the tics that stem from anxiety attacks, his assistance dog Monroe tackles him with love, lying on top of the Wilmington boy to apply pressure that his mother says calms him. It’s just one of the ways the dog donated from paws4people helps Mack cope with dyslexia, ADHD, sensory processing disorder and anxiety.
Now, Mack wants tackle the challenge of helping others with development issues have the benefits of an assistance dog. During the 42nd annual Cape Fear Rugby Sevens tournament, Mack will help raise money for paws4people while watching his father John Mejaski, known by many as the “Mayor,” compete in the local tournament.
“This is the first time Mack’s been able to take the reins with fundraising. It’s been an amazing experience,” said his mother, Kate Mejaski. “He’s doing this to help someone else in the future and he’s been blown away by how generous people are in the community.”
More than 70 teams from across the country will compete in the tournament that consists of short, 20-minute games with seven players on each team. The games will take place at Ogden Park beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, July 2-3.
During the tournament this weekend, paws4people will be providing Port City Java coffee, information pamphlets on their organization and lots of puppy love from assistance dogs in-training. The tournament is open to the public and admission is free, though Mejaski said donations are greatly appreciated. A portion of all funds raised will be given to paws4people and Mejaski said Mack’s fundraising goal is to bring in $10,000 for the organization.
Monroe, a chocolate labrador retriever, is helping Mack develop confidence as he works to face his issues and now the Wilmington boy is looking to “pay it forward” by helping the next child gain the benefits of an assistance dog from local nonprofit paws4people.
This will be the first year that the tournament has partnered with a nonprofit, and Mejaski said it seems fitting for the team to support an organization that has given so much to Mack and his family. Late last year, paws4people gave Mack his new canine friend, Monroe, to help him work through some learning challenges and to increase his functioning at school and at home. He and his family are using this fundraiser as an opportunity to give back to paws4people for the next recipient of an assistance dog.
“This partnership is a win-win for everybody,” Mejaski said.
The Mejaski family began working with Monroe in Dec. 2015, and they are looking forward to late summer when the dog will come to live with them full time and be a constant part of Mack’s life.
“Monroe will impact many aspects of his daily life, helping him work on literacy skills, managing his body and activity levels, providing a distraction from tics, applying calming pressure and helping him sleep,” Mejaski said.
There is no fee to receive a dog, however, while paws4people’s support for Mack came free of charge, the organization encourages recipients of the assistance dogs to fundraise for the next recipient.
Paws4people specifically supports children like Mack to better work through their disabilities as well as supports veterans and active-duty service members. The military focus of the organization is close to the hearts of The Cape Fear Rugby Club, where many of the members are veterans or currently active in the military, Majaski said. Like many of the other dogs trained by paws4people, Monroe is named for a fallen member of the armed service, honoring U.S. Army Specialist Anthony W. Monroe, who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom in October 2004.
To directly support Mack’s fundraising goal, visit www.paws4people.org/give/mack-mejaski.