“An angel kept me safe. There was someone up there who helped us, little Alex kept me on," said Jeremy Rose, Afleet Alex's jockey.
by Jay Scott, Alex’s Dad
My daughter Alexandra “Alex” Scott lost her life to childhood cancer in August of 2004. It was only a few short months prior that she had set out on a mission to raise $1 million through volunteer-run lemonade stands across the country. Alex truly was the wind in our sails, the gas in our engines, and when she died, the fate of her dream to find cures through those lemonade stands hung in the balance. I am not one to believe in signs, or that things are meant to be, but shortly after Alex’s death, we received a phone call that may very well have laid the groundwork for what would become Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation — the continuation of our daughter’s legacy to find cures for all kids with cancer.
I can remember when the phone call came in, my wife Liz took the call, and the person on the other line said simply:
“We own a horse that is pretty good, and we have been donating anonymously to Alex’s cause whenever the horse wins. Would it be okay if we kept donating, but go public with it?”
My wife Liz and I knew nothing about horse racing at the time, but in our minds, we thought, why not? We soon learned that the owners had undersold the ability of the horse, he was more than “pretty good.” The horse, who was coincidentally named Afleet Alex, was good enough to receive an invitation to the Kentucky Derby in 2005, possibly the most prestigious race in horse racing and the first in the Triple Crown Series. As part of the newly formed partnership with Afleet Alex, our family was invited to the Kentucky Derby to set up a lemonade stand, and just like that, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) was on the world’s stage.
While Afleet Alex did not win the Kentucky Derby (he came in a respectable third place), the Kentucky Derby provided us with an amazing opportunity to expose Alex’s Lemonade Stand to new people, and as an added bonus, the horse racing and sports media began covering the story of the two Alexs.
A short two weeks later, our family packed up once again and headed this time to Baltimore for the second race in the series, The Preakness Stakes. Again, we set up a lemonade stand at the race, and the momentum and excitement surrounding the day were palpable. As we watched the race, we saw up close and personal when Afleet Alex stumbled to his knees nearly bucking his jockey, Jeremy Rose, off. It could have been a tragic turn of events for both the horse and jockey, but instead Afleet Alex miraculously not only righted himself, but took off from the field to win by almost six lengths — in horse racing that is a huge margin to win by. In the post-race interview, Jeremy Rose was asked how he didn’t fall off the horse, he responded: “an angel kept me safe. There was someone up there who helped us, little Alex kept me on.”
It was clear that day the similarities between my daughter and Afleet Alex, they both showed spirit and strength to overcome adversity and race on. When the final day of the Triple Crown came, the Belmont Stakes, our immediate family couldn’t be there, so Alex’s grandparents, aunts and uncles completed the “Triple Crown” of lemonade stands at the race. You see, we had a prior commitment, it was the same date as Alex’s “Original” Lemonade Stand. This would be the very first stand we would hold without Alex, and while there were tears shed that day, Afleet Alex gave us hope for the future. When post time finally arrived, we were still cleaning up from the lemonade stand, but we all huddled inside of the elementary school where Alex’s stand is held and watched on a tv provided for just this purpose. As we anxiously awaited the outcome, Afleet Alex seemed to have run out of luck staying in the middle of the pack until the last turn. But then, life found his feet and Afleet Alex took off once again, leaving the field in his dust. He won again by many lengths, showing the spirit of our Alex, to never give up, and that it is never too late to make the difference.
Today, Afleet Alex is living the good life, retired to a horse farm in Kentucky, but I will never be able to thank that horse enough for what he did for the Foundation, and for our family.
Jay Scott is the Co-Executive Director of ALSF and Alex's Dad.