South Florida community comes together to help girl with mystery illness

Mackenzie Nelson, 3, forced to eat through feeding tube

COOPER CITY, Fla. – Students at Archbishop McCarthy High School are dedicating the month of March to a girl who is suffering from a mysterious illness.

Mackenzie Nelson, who turns 4 on March 15, cannot eat even the smallest amount of food. Instead, she lives off a feeding tube that provides a special formula that is flown in from overseas.

After Local 10 News aired stories about Mackenzie in late 2016, McCarthy High School senior Lauren Perlstein decided to do something.

"Mackenzie's mom, Ashley, was my teacher when I was in grade school. She did so much for me (and) I wanted to do something in return," Perlstein said.

The school is holding a variety of fundraising events this month in hopes of raising money to help find a cure for Mackenzie.

"Doctors here haven't been able to figure it out. We found a team of doctors out of state, but our insurance won't cover the cost, which could be tens of thousands of dollars," Mackenzie's mother, Ashley Nelson, said.

Perlstein has asked local businesses for support.

Michael Bernstein, owner of Gimme A Burger in Pembroke Pines, is dedicating the proceeds of a sandwich named after Mackenzie to help the effort.

Bernstein will donate 20 percent of all purchases to the fundraising effort between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday and  3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday. 

"I am very thankful and very surprised," Nelson said. "They're going above and beyond. They don't even know Mackenzie, and they're doing so much to help her."

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