When Lily Adkins was 8 years old, she started talking to her dad about ways to to make their annual lemonade stand bigger than ever before.
They discussed several ideas — moving the stand from their front yard to a local park, getting two bounce houses instead of one, or maybe asking some local celebrities to stop by.
In the end, they chose largest thing they could imagine: breaking a world record for the biggest cup of Alex’s Lemonade.
“My dad and I were always dreaming about crazy things we could do. I know it sounds crazy to break a world record, but my dad is like that, he makes anything possible,” said Lily, who is now 14 years old.
Diagnosed at 14 months old with a brain tumor called ependymoma, Lily had been dealing with cancer nearly her entire life. She endured surgeries and proton radiation. While she was recovering in the ICU at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, her parents, Mike and Trish, literally ran into Liz Scott in the hospital lobby. Liz was speaking about Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s (ALSF) support of childhood cancer research. The Adkins decided then and there to join the cause and start hosting lemonade stands of their own.
Their first family lemonade stand was held just two years after Lily’s diagnosis and raised $2,000 for ALSF. It kept growing every year with the support of the local community, family and friends from all over the world. But eventually, they wanted to do something a little grander with their stand.
“I wanted to grow our stand more — we had momentum and we had support,” said Mike. “After Lily and I chatted about the idea for the big cup, I asked a friend if he wanted to help me break a world record. Luckily, he did not think I was crazy.”
Together with his friend Matt Hirsch, Mike began the groundwork for the world record cup, which the family dubbed “Big Lemonade.”
How everything came together is nothing short of lemonade magic:
A company in Indiana not only volunteered to build and donate the cup, they also arranged for its transport from Indiana to New Jersey. A family friend designed a special logo for the cup and event t-shirts. Mike’s company sponsored the bounce house (a really big bounce house, of course) and other rentals. Trish asked local businesses for their help as well, which led to their town donating park space and a stage for the event. They even had a lift donated so they could safely reach the top of that world record cup. And the final touch: the lemonade itself, donated by their local Auntie Anne’s franchisee.
In the end, “Big Lemonade” was filled with 1,750 gallons of lemonade and stood 10 feet tall.
“I did not think the cup would be that big,” recalls Lily. “I was smaller than I am now, so it felt even bigger. I looked down into the top of the lemonade cup and thought, ‘Wow, that is a lot of lemonade.’”
Lily, together with her siblings, Chloe and Nick, poured the first cup of lemonade and led a toast with other childhood cancer families — some of whom had traveled from across the country to be at the record-breaking occasion.
“Childhood cancer touches more lives than any of us can image. Our big cup was such a huge undertaking — only possible because of everyone’s commitment and belief in our family and the work of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation,” said Mike. “Most of the people who came through and helped were strangers, but in the end emerged as family.”
Today, the Big Lemonade cup sits in the family’s backyard and still makes an appearance every year at their annual lemonade stands. The family has also gone on to set the record for the longest continuous line of ALSF lemonade stands, which stretched over 500 feet.
But just like Alex Scott, Lily likes to keep dreaming big, and she has even greater ideas of how to help kids with cancer. Her next goal: to host a lemonade stand in each of the 50 states by the time she is 16 years old. Another dream worth believing in.