By: Trish Adkins
2020 was a year like no other -- at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), we celebrated 20 years since our founder Alex Scott’s first stand, while also navigating how to continue our mission and help kids with cancer during a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic. From sharing stories from our 20 years of history to going virtual everywhere to continuing to fuel research, ALSF forged ahead on its mission of ensuring children with cancer have access to safer treatments and cures. Childhood cancer doesn’t stop for a pandemic and neither does ALSF.
Here are five highlights from another year of helping kids fight cancer:
ALSF founder Alex Scott was just 3 years old and battling neuroblastoma when an experimental treatment, called MIBG, made her feel better. Around six weeks later, following her 4th birthday, she went back to the hospital for a transplant. Emerging from that visit, Alex was certain of two things: she was feeling pretty good, and she wanted to host a lemonade stand.
That first simple front yard lemonade stand, held 20 years ago in July 2000, changed everything for kids with cancer. Throughout the past 20 years, supporters have gone to extreme lengths to support the cause, researchers have made breakthroughs and ALSF has been able to support families throughout every phase of treatment. All year long we shared incredible stories from our history, like the story of Alex’s first stand or Grandma Bee, who jumped from a plane to raise money for ALSF.
2020 challenged everyone to pivot their fundraising from being together in real life to being together at a distance. This year, we hosted two Virtual End Childhood Cancer 5Ks, rallying our walking and running supporters to run a 5K in their own neighborhoods. Lemonade Days went virtual — with online lemonade stands and socially-distanced drive-by lemonade stands. The first-ever Gamers for Kids with Cancer Stream-a-Thon was held in December and in 2021, our annual Lemon Ball will move from the ballroom to virtual, with a spectacular experience planned for attendees, who are safe at home.
This year proved, yet again, that no matter how challenging the situation, if we all work together, we can make a difference for kids with cancer.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused even more challenges for families in the midst of childhood cancer battles. Travel became difficult. As the economy reacted to the pandemic, jobs were lost. But children still needed to get to lifesaving treatment and families still needed to provide the normal staples of daily life — like groceries. ALSF started the COVID-19 emergency fund to provide grocery gift cards for families. It also pivoted its Travel For Care program to fund travel to local hospitals in addition to finding open hotels and flights.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ALSF has provided grocery support to more than 2,000 families going through childhood cancer treatment totaling over $600,000.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, research labs shut down, sending researchers home and jeopardizing experiments. However, researchers used this time to turn their focus to analyzing big data and having their lab staff attend virtual ALSF-sponsored events like the Childhood Cancer Data Lab training or one of several Childhood Cancer Lecture Series. Clinical trial centers found creative ways to ensure children could still access their therapy while also gathering critical scientific data.
ALSF also continued to commit resources to the Crazy 8 Initiative. In 2021, ALSF will announce the multi-year, multi-million dollar research projects meant to push research closer to cures for all children.
5. Despite a crazy year, we celebrated all the milestones of our heroes.
This year, ALSF highlighted and celebrated the milestone moments that make kids, kids. From first bike rides to birthday parties, every child should have childhood moments. Unfortunately, kids with cancer can’t always experience these milestones. Many children fighting cancer have to put their childhoods on hold due to frequent doctor visits, traveling to distant hospitals, or long-lasting side effects from treatment. Watch the inspirational stories of children who reached milestones — like marriage, college graduations and first steps — here.
As we turn the page to 2021, we are reminded of what Alex would often tell us: there is still work to do. More lemonade stands to hold, more research to fund, more families to help and more stories like Edie’s to tell. We are so thankful to have you along for the journey. Get involved, here.