Curing Childhood Cancer, One Lemonade at a Time

By Jennifer LoConte

What began as a simple lemonade stand to raise money for a children’s hospital has evolved into a national foundation to raise awareness and cure childhood cancers. Alex’s Lemonade Stand was founded by Alexandra Scott, a little girl with a big heart who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma and wanted to help her doctors so that they could in turn, help other children with cancer. Throughout her surgeries, procedures and treatments, Alex remained a determined and confident fighter whose inspiration was contagious.

Alex was diagnosed shortly before her first birthday. At age four, she received a stem cell transplant and her health improved. Liz Scott, Alex’s mother recalls, “It was January and we were in the hospital when Alex asked if she could have a lemonade stand. I thought, what could she possibly want to buy? Alex told me that she would not keep the money but instead give it to her doctors.” That summer, with Alex back home, she held her very first lemonade stand. Scott says, “I worried she would be disappointed because lemonade stands only make $10 or $15 dollars at most.” Scott phoned her sister to come with her own children and her sister called the newspaper. By the end of the day, Alex had made $2,000.

The following year, in 2001, the family moved from Connecticut to a Philadelphia suburb to be close to Children’s Hospital, where Alex received treatment. The lemonade stand would return for a second year and with the help of the media and friends, Alex made $12,000. The stands continued every year but when Alex was eight, the treatments had stopped working and she knew she didn’t have much time left. Alex’s new goal would be to raise $1 million. Scott says, “I worried again that she would be disappointed.  She wasn’t feeling well and her father, Jay, and I didn’t want the added stress of this goal to make things worse. She told me – ‘mom, it’s important.’” News of Alex and her lemonade stands traveled not only across the country, but worldwide. Alex was featured on TV shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show and her story was coverd by the Associated Press. Alex held her last lemonade stand during the summer of 2004 but she was not alone. That day, stands were held all across the country and her goal of $1 million was reached.

Today, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation proudly remains dedicated to raising awareness and finding cures. To date, they have raised close to $40 million. They fund 150 research projects across the country through a competitive grant process and fund 60 institutions. One of many supportive programs is the Travel Fund which helps ease the financial burden for families who travel far distances to seek treatment for their children.  Scott says, “All too often, parents have felt like they had to give up on their child because they couldn’t afford the trip to treatment facilities. We provide gas cards, payment for airfare, and rent at the Ronald McDonald house or nearby hotels.”

The Hero Ambassador Program is another example of how the Foundation continues to raise awareness by matching families together. Through sharing their own stories, these child heroes and their families serve as an inspiration to others. One such hero is six-year old Nicholas Konish, of Easton. Nicholas was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was three-and-a-half years old. Initially, his parents took him to the ER after complaining of foot pain. An observant ER physician noticed red spots (petechiae) on his legs and ordered blood tests. His mother, Michelle, did not expect to hear the words that no parent wants to hear: your child has cancer. Konish says, “You just want it to be you instead of your child. We were immediately transported via ambulance to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) where Nicholas’s life and ours changed completely.”

For the last few years, Nicholas has endured countless spinal taps, bone marrow aspirations, hospital stays due to fevers and an overwhelming amount of chemotherapy.  In the early stages of treatment, he was given weekly intravenous chemo until he entered the maintenance phase of monthly intravenous chemo and a daily chemo pill. He will complete his treatment in April and his mom reports that her first-grader is doing great.  Konish says, “What Nicholas enjoys the most is just being a normal kid. He loves school, trains, dinosaurs and will soon earn his yellow belt in karate.”

The Konish family is grateful for Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Konish adds, “Upon Nicholas’s diagnosis, ALS was there to offer support and services. They got to know us personally which they do for every family.” Over the last several years, Konish, with the support of her employer, Applebee’s Restaurant, has raised more than  $40,000 for ALS. Every weekend in May, the Konish family will hold their annual lemonade stand in front of Applebee’s, located on Rte. 248 in Easton. In addition, there will be a special raffle night at the restaurant with great prizes donated by local businesses. The Konish family has also sold hundreds of ALS T-shirts to local school districts who hold a special day where everyone wears their shirts and participates in a school lemonade stand. Konish says, “We rely on organizations like ALS to help doctors find a cure. We not only continue to fight for our own children diagnosed with cancer, but for future generations as well. You never know when it could happen to your child.”

Alex Scott’s family – Liz, Jay, and her three brothers Patrick, Eddie and Joey – remain dedicated to continue the fight that Alex was unable to.

For more information on ALS, visit alexslemonade.org.  For local ALS fundraising information, email Michelle Konish at [email protected]

“Making a Difference” showcases Lehigh Valley nonprofit organizations and the work they are doing to improve life for adults and children in our community.

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