By: Denis Smith, Lemonade Stand Host
Known as the Jersey Shore family who has “the lemonade stand,” the Smiths first heard Alex’s story while Bridget was being treated for neuroblastoma at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Bridget was just three years old at diagnosis and endured several years of treatment. Today, Bridget is cancer-free and 15-years-old, a freshman in high school. She is also a nearly lifelong lemonade stand host. Her father, Denis, shares the family’s journey from oncology clinic to their front yard, fighting for cures one cup at at a time.
It was twelve years ago this past April when my wife, Margaret-Mary, and I heard the four words a parent fears most: “Your child has cancer.”
From that moment forward, our lives were thrown into the most vicious of storms. Our daughter, Bridget Rose, was three years old and had neuroblastoma, an often lethal form of childhood cancer affecting the sympathetic nervous system. In Bridget’s case, the tumor began to grow in her lower spine encasing many nerves which are vital to a young child’s development. Along the way up her spine, the tumor attached itself to the back of her abdominal wall. This all presented some very problematic surgical options on a three-year old’s spine and stomach.
In those early moments, we had no idea how to move forward.
Other than immediately praying that we could somehow be delivered from this surreal predicament, how were we to navigate our way through the storm? How were we to tell Bridget’s four older siblings, a couple of them still too young to fully comprehend that their sister has cancer? How do we tell her grandparents? What do we say to her 28 aunts and uncles and 37 first cousins? How does a person even begin to explain something that just a few short hours ago seemed so foreign and out of the realm of reality? These and the many, many other questions we had seemed pointless when Marg and I asked ourselves the most important question of all:
How are going to leave the hospital with Bridget in our arms? We needed answers big time.
That’s where Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation came in. It was during one of Bridget’s early and countless oncology visits at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, that we happened upon the storybook, “Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand.” As Marg and Bridget read through the book together, Marg realized she wasn’t reading a fictional story. Indeed, Alex was a true hero when she decided to take on a battle for kids just like her.
Alex’s lemonade stand story was the start of our own stand story.
When we held our first Smith Family Lemonade Stand for ALSF 12 years ago, we had no idea what to expect. We spread the word through family and friends. All of our children were involved with youth sports--travel soccer in particular--so that was another easy way to get the word out. We happen to live in a wonderful community on the Jersey Shore and so we were sure to have some neighbors turn out.
Then day of our first stand came along and BAM—clearly word had spread that we were raising money for pediatric cancer research by giving away lemonade for a donation—our road and our front yard were packed with people!
I had to call our police chief to tell him there was going to be one big lemonade stand in our yard that day. Much to my surprise, word had already made it to the police department and they were sending officers to block-off the streets around our house. We had a steady stream of folks in and out of our yard all day and at the end of it all we raised over $10,000 at our first stand.
We were floored! How was this possible? How could an idea so simple become something so incredibly powerful?
We are about the host our 12th annual Alex’s Lemonade Stand. We hope to top last year’s funds raised of over $47,000!! We do this with Bridget, now a 15-year-old young adult with her cancer in remission. There is no question that the incredibly generous folks who support our stand have helped to make an impact in this fight. They have saved the lives of children they will never meet.
This is why we host lemonade stands. We were undeniably lucky. We hope others realize the importance of finding cures for kids with cancer. It’s through ALSF that we were able to find answers to questions we never thought we would ever ask. We, thankfully, take inspiration from Bridget. We humbly take inspiration from Alex, who started a revolution to cure pediatric cancer: ONE CUP AT A TIME!
The Smith Family which includes parents Denis and Marg plus children Maeve, Stephen, Brendan, Caroline and Bridget, have raised over $400,000 for ALSF by hosting the Smith Family Lemonade Stand at their home in Spring Lake, NJ. You can join the Smith Family during Lemonade Days or anytime of year to host a lemonade stand and help fund innovative childhood cancer research. Learn more here.