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FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – It was a sweet day for Pro-Football Hall of Famer and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino as he accepted a check from Panera Bread for $25 thousand at the end of their Touchdown for Autism campaign.

During month of April, which is National Autism Awareness Month, Panera Bread locations sold football shaped cookies; the proceeds of which were destined for the Dan Marino Foundation and the new Dan Marino Foundation Florida Vocational Campus which is slated to open fall of 2012.

On Wednesday Marino signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans after the check presentation.

Luisa McKenna drove down from West Palm Beach with her son Carter to make sure she got a chance to thank Marino personally for all that his foundation has done for her family.

“When you’re so scared there’s something wrong with your child, you need someone to give you a path, you need someone to tell you it’s going to be okay,” said McKenna.

Carter was diagnosed with autism when he was 17-months-old and Luisa immediately enrolled him the Dan Marino Center at Miami Children’s Hospital.

“My husband and I looked at each other and thought ‘They know what they are doing’,” McKenna said. “They were supportive and gave us everything we needed to do.”

Because of his time at the Dan Marino Center, two year old Carter is already using an iPad to help with his learning disabilities.

The new Dan Marino Foundation Florida Vocational Campus will help children with autism as they get older and help them transition into the real world.

“We found that there is a need for kids from 16 to 18 to 25 to transition in life skills and get involved in the community that so that’s where we are going to focus now,” Marino said.

For families like the McKennas, these resources are priceless.

“Having a place that tells you what you can do to help is enlightening and changes your life because you can do something for your child,” McKenna said.


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