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Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Blog

There are several great ways kids can help kids at school!

There are so many great ways schools can support Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

by Trish Adkins, ALSF

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was founded on the belief that kids can help other kids! We’ve always had amazing schools and teachers supporting our mission and raising funds for research. Here are five schools making a difference one cup at a time:

1. How Can One Child Make A Difference: Erpenbeck Elementary School, Florence, KY

At Erpenbeck Elementary School in Florence, KY, the teachers and students have been putting the squeeze on childhood cancer for three years! The third-grade teachers—Ashley Moeller, Nicole Servizzi, Jessica Klosinski, Stacey Neuhaus, Michelle Roland and Toni Hook—used their participation in the ALSF Great Lemonade War as part of a social studies unit in economics.  

The key question throughout the unit was “How can one child make a difference?” Each of the third-grade classes took on a part of the project—including surveying the student body to find out their favorite lemonade flavors, writing persuasive “sales” letters, advertising throughout the community and keeping track of donations. One class created a promotional website for their team the “Erpenbeck Easy Squeezers.” Their efforts made them the winners of the ALSF Great Lemonade War and raised $4,626 in 2017 and over $11,000 over the past three years. 

2. Creating a Penny Shortage: Mercersburg and Montgomery Elementary Schools, Mercersburg, PA

Mercersburg and Montgomery Elementary Schools joined together to fight childhood cancer with a penny war! Students at the schools raised over $7,000 while engaging in a school versus school penny war—which led to some penny shortages at area banks!
Students brought in donations—pennies counted as “positive” donations toward their team totals while silver coins and paper money counted as “negative” donations. All money counted towards their amazing total!

3. Lessons and Lemonade: Southwest Elementary School, Clemmons, NC 

Speech-Language Pathologists at Southwest Elementary School in Clemmons, NC embrace all the educational benefits of hosting a lemonade stand to teach their students in their five exceptional children’s classrooms--Character, Community and Communication. Students help plan the school’s annual lemonade stands teachers guide them through lessons in social skills, math, language and functional communication skills. 

The result: the students served over 1,300 cups of lemonade, raising $5,500 at their stand last year. Over the last five years, Southwest Elementary has raised over $14,500 for ALSF. Maria Vernon, a speech-language pathologist at Southwest and the volunteer organizer of their ALSF lemonade stands, said students are learning the importance of giving to others and that is the greatest lesson of all. We all need help sometimes is the phrase they teach the children about why they are selling lemonade. The school will host their 6th annual stand in June.

4. 12 years of tradition: Van Sciver Elementary School, Haddonfield, NJ

At Van Sciver Elementary School in Haddonfield, the tradition of supporting ALSF runs deep! Not only has the school hosted lemonade stands since 2006 and raised over $6,900, students and teachers have found several ways to get involved in ALSF. Now-retired special education teacher, Sharon Raibel, was inspired to start an ALSF lemonade stand by a former student who fought childhood cancer. Teachers incorporated ALSF resources into their classroom math and language arts curriculum. They also used the annual lemonade stand as a chance to teach students about community service. 

Two new teachers, Eileen O’Mara and Michelle Croxton, are now leading the tradition. (Miss O’Mara also attended the 2016 Lemon Run and was the top female finisher!). This year, the school’s annual assembly will include a childhood cancer hero speaker and a special video from an ALSF funded-researcher, so the children can learn more about how their donations have helped others!

5. Painting the School Gold for a Cure: Marion Jordan School, Palatine, IL
All throughout September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, students at Marion Jordan School in Palatine, Illinois participated in school-wide events to raise awareness and funds for ALSF. The school kicked off events with a special assembly featuring a sixth grader, Theo, who attends school there and battled neuroblastoma. 

Throughout the rest of the month, teachers led their classrooms in educational discussions about pediatric cancer. At recess, students received maniCUREs with sparkling gold nail polish! Students also got streaks of gold in their hair with temporary hair tattoo and sold gold shoelaces and rubber bracelets. To finish the month, the school had a lemonade stand which was attended by local government and community representatives! 

Want to get your school involved? Find out how.

May is Brain Tumor Awareness. Brain tumors are the deadliest form of childhood cancer.

Maddie spent Valentine’s Day 2017 in surgery to remove a tumor from her spine, marking her third tumor resection in as many years.

by Trish Adkins, ALSF

When you meet 8-year-old Maddie Davis, you might notice the pink highlights in her hair, her adorable dimpled smile and her advanced vocabulary (she reads at the 9th-grade level).

If you look closer, you might notice the silvery scar that snakes down the back of her neck or the way her right leg turns in just a little when she walks.

And if you ask her where she spent last Valentine’s Day, you will find out what makes this little girl a warrior.

Maddie spent Valentine’s Day 2017 in surgery to remove a tumor from her spine, marking her third tumor resection in as many years. She returned to school, 8 days after spinal surgery.

“What’s the point of being discharged, if I cannot go to school,” she told her mother.

Maddie began her battle with ependymoma, the second most common type of brain and spinal cord tumor in children, when she was just 5-years-old. She had surgery to remove the tumor in the posterior fossa* of her brain and followed with proton radiation treatment. For two years, Maddie was cancer-free until a routine scan caught her first recurrence in early 2016. 

“We were devastated for the second time,” says Maddie’s mother, Melanie Davis. 

The tumor recurred in the original tumor bed. Again, Maddie had surgery and then joined an immunotherapy trial with Dr. Ted Johnson at the GRU Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia, 460 miles from her home in Virginia. 

But, then the pain started in Maddie’s hip. For months, Maddie complained of pain on and off. After several x-rays and visits with physical therapists and orthopedists, Melanie asked for a spine MRI to see if there was a tumor.

“I just had a feeling that Maddie’s hip pain was something more,” said Melanie.

And it was. Maddie had a tumor in her lower spine from L2 to L5, the five vertebrae that make up the lumbar spine. Now, Maddie is battling recurrent metastatic brain cancer. Her cancer has spread. 

This time around, Maddie’s treatment remains the same: surgery, radiation and continuing on the immunotherapy trial with Dr. Johnson. Dr. Johnson’s research has been funded by ALSF and continues to study the potential of immunotherapy, a highly precise treatment that aims to recruit the body’s immune system to attack cancer. For Maddie, this treatment has offered a high quality of life—despite the distance. Her treatment side effects have been minimal and all treatments are outpatient, allowing Maddie to stay in school and with her family.

Doctors, researchers and parents are dedicated to finding treatments that are effective, while allowing children do the normal things they love—return to school, spend time with their families, go to birthday parties and above all, be happy. 

“My hope is that with research, we will find a way to beat these cancers without beating kids down so much,” said Melanie.

May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month. Brain tumors are the most deadly form of cancer in children. All month-long, the ALSF blog will share stories on the forefront of pediatric brain tumor research. To learn more about ALSF-funded brain tumor research projects visit here

* The posterior fossa is located in the back of the brain and contains the cerebellum (which controls movement and balance) and the brainstem (which controls vital functions like blood pressure and breathing). 

This is the 12th year for The Great Chefs Event – Philadelphia’s premiere culinary event that has raised millions of dollars to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and the Vetri Community Partnership. Everyone knows it’s a great summer evening event with delicious food for two great causes. But did you know some of these interesting facts about the event?

This is the 12th year for The Great Chefs Event – Philadelphia’s premiere culinary event that has raised millions of dollars to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and the Vetri Community Partnership. 

by Liz Romaine

Philadelphia's premiere culinary event turns 12-years-old this summer! Since The Great Chefs Event began, the event has raised millions of dollars to support Alex's Lemonade Stand and the Vetri Community Partnership. On June 20, this amazing event will serve up some amazing food and cocktails while giving guests a perfectly delicious summer evening. Here are eight things you didn't know about The Great Chefs event:

  1. Last year, eight 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards finalists participated. This year, six 2017 semi-finalists are participating at The Great Chefs Event. Winners are announced on May 1st--so you can sample dishes from the best chefs and restaurants in the world!
  2. 6,347 is the average number of steps taken during the event. The event is held in the beautiful and eclectic Urban Outfitters headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. At 85’ wide and 400’ long, the space comfortably fits the chefs, vintners and breweries.
  3. $35,000 is the highest amount a live auction item has sold for. It happened in 2012 for a trip to Italy with Marc Vetri and Jeff Michaud. The live auction at The Great Chefs Event is not to be missed! Unique experiences such as culinary trips, unforgettable experiences and world-renown chefs cooking in your kitchen are some of the amazing items that you could win. 
  4. You will never eat dessert the same way again. While many of the food samplings at The Great Chefs Event are savory, there are plenty of options to satisfy your sweet tooth. From Charm City Cakes – whose boundary-pushing cakes have been to presidential inaugurations – to Big Gay Ice Cream serving up boozy milkshakes, you’ll never want just plain vanilla again.  
  5. Over 1,200 pounds of mortadella has been served at the After Party! For the last 6 years, the Vetri crew has cooked the Italian sausage in a beer and water bath for two days. Last year, the sausage was 335 lbs and needed to be forklifted into Victory Brewing’s fermentation tank. Maybe this is the year the sausage can get into the Guinness Book of World Records! After Party access tickets are available for purchase and features additional bites from BBQ master Adam Perry Lang, Adam Arrison and Philly favorites Michael Solomonov and Jose Garces. 
  6. The Great Chefs Event has inspired other culinary events around the country! Because The Great Chefs Event delivers an amazing experience and raises so money much for great causes, other chefs around the country have used the foundation that Marc Vetri, Jeff Benjamin and Jeff Michaud have built to create their own events in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, all benefiting ALSF. 
  7. The first Great Chefs Event had only eight local chefs and 100 guests. That was in 2006. Fast forward 10 years, The Great Chefs Event had over 40 chefs and 1,000 guests in 2016. But here is the best part…
  8. Over $730,000 was raised in 2016. That’s the equivalent of over 3,500 students getting healthy lunches for a year through the Vetri Community Partnership and almost an entire month of childhood cancer research funded through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Now that you are an insider, grab your tickets here before they sell out. Or take your chances and experience the Great Chefs Event like the VIP you are! Purchase a $50 raffle ticket for a chance to win this exclusive package: 

Two (2) After Party Access tickets (also includes general admission to the Great Chefs Event)
One (1) night stay in a 1-bedroom suite at the Courtyard by Marriott at The Navy Yard

100% of the raffle proceeds go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Vetri Community Partnership. What have you got to lose? The raffle winner will be announced Wednesday, May 10th at 10 am.
See you there!

Elizabeth Romaine is the Director of Communications & Public Relations at ALSF. She loves working with amazing donors, sponsors and heroes to find a cure for childhood cancer. 


Culinary Events
Better outcomes and cures for childhood leukemia will be found with continued genetic studies, innovation in technology and targeted treatments.

ALSF funded researchers like Dr. Todd Druley, pictured above, are closer than ever before to finding cures by studying DNA building blocks specific to childhood leukemia.​

by Trish Adkins

When a child is first diagnosed with leukemia, the goal is to force the disease into remission. The treatment protocol is long and grueling—at least 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy, lumbar punctures and clinic visits. Today, children diagnosed with the most common form of pediatric leukemia—acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)—have a high cure rate. The discovery of genetic differences that can increase a child’s risk of relapse has helped some of the highest risk patients reach remission. 

But, not all children with ALL reach remission. When they relapse, the second round of treatment is much more intense than the first says Dr. Todd Druley, ALSF Scientific Advisory Board Member and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Developmental Biology and Genetics at Washington University.  

Dr. Druley says the reason lies within the genetic drivers of the child’s specific type of leukemia. Better outcomes and cures will be found with continued genetic studies, innovation in technology and targeted treatments.

Understanding Leukemia
A diagnosis of leukemia is suspected after a blood test and confirmed by a bone marrow biopsy. The cells that make blood reside primarily in the bone marrow and when a child has leukemia, one of those cells becomes cancerous and overruns the other healthy cells.

While most childhood leukemia diagnoses are ALL, children are also diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphoblastic leukemia (CLL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). The acute form of the disease will grow suddenly—meaning the leukemia is spreading rapidly and outnumbering healthy cells and a child can become very sick quickly. 

Managing Risk Factors
One of the early breakthroughs in the treatment of childhood leukemia was to better understand the genetic differences between adult and childhood forms of the disease. Now, researchers have deconstructed the disease even further, giving them the ability to manage the risk factors for newly diagnosed patients. 

“Ten years ago, we did not appreciate the genetic differences inherent to leukemia and we thought most children had a standard risk. Now, we can see the subtypes of leukemia more precisely and provide the correct intensity of treatment,” said Dr. Druley

This helps children with both low and high-risk leukemia. Children with lower risk factors can receive a less intense treatment and therefore minimize long term side effects (which can include cardiac damage, developmental delays and fertility issues). 

If a relapse occurs, doctors now have more tools to battle the disease including CAR T cell immunotherapy, which works to harness the body’s immune system to attack the cancer cells. This therapy uses a patient’s own genetically engineered T cells (an immune cell that attacks things that are foreign to the body) to attack cancer cells that have been hiding from the immune system. 

Hope in the DNA
Genetic studies have also helped doctors understand infant ALL and AML (leukemia less than 12 months of age), which has significantly lower cure rates compared to leukemia in older children. Dr. Druley’s research suggests that babies who have leukemia appear to have inherited a genetic predisposition that makes them highly susceptible to developing the disease. 

Dr. Druley’s research continues to focus on determining the genetic drivers that predispose children to cancer and how to mitigate the effects of these genetic mutations and stop cancer formation. Understanding these genetic markers can also open the door to understanding how to treat other types of childhood cancer.

Scientists have discovered the same mutations in blood cells, also exist in solid tissue tumors, which helps provide critical clues into what makes a variety of childhood cancer types tick. 

“Science is telling us that treating cancer by its tissue or origin ( blood, lung, brain, etc) is often less effective than treating the genetic type of the tumor, guiding us to tailor therapy in whole new and exciting way,” said Dr. Druley.

Read more about Dr. Druley’s research here.


CAR T cell immunotherapy could offer promise for many children battling relapsed ALL. In our Spring 2017 newsletter, we shared the story of how ALSF-funded Young Investigator, Dr. Rebecca Gardner at Seattle Children’s Hospital helped a young girl reach remission for her relapsed leukemia

CAR T cell immunotherapy could offer promise for many children battling relapsed ALL. ALSF-funded Young Investigator, Dr. Rebecca Gardner at Seattle Children’s Hospital, pictured above, helped a young girl reach remission for her relapsed leukemia.

More and more research is focused on harnessing the body’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells. One type, known as CAR T cell immunotherapy, is offering new hope and cures to patients with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Here’s everything you need to know about CAR T cell immunotherapy:

What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy recruits the body’s own immune system to identify and kill cancer cells. Cancer cells hide from the immune system—convincing the body that they belong. As a result, cancer cells can grow without interference. Immunotherapy treatments activate the individual’s immune system so it can see cancer cells among the healthy cells, stop them from growing and kill existing cancer cells. 

What are T cells?
T cells are a type of white blood cell that works with the body’s immune system to help identify and destroy foreign invaders—like a virus. T cells appear when the body identifies an infection or injury; they replicate quickly in order to attack. Once their job is complete, the T cells decrease in number. When a child has leukemia, the T cells cannot see the cancer cells and therefore, they do not go to work fighting the cancer cells, as they would a virus. 

What is the “CAR” part of CAR T cell immunotherapy?
CAR stands for “Chimeric Antigen Receptor.” This lab-created cell modification takes the blindfold off T cells, allowing them to recognize cancer cells. 

How does CAR T cell immunotherapy work?
Making a T cell “see” cancer cells begins with collecting a child’s T cells. Then, those T cells are genetically modified with the addition of the chimeric antigen receptor (that’s the CAR part). The chimeric antigen receptor allows T cells to see the cancer cells. Once the child receives the newly modified T cells, the immune system goes to work. The T cells multiply, attacking the cancer until it is gone. CAR T cells have shown remarkable success in the treatment of relapsed leukemia and have the potential to be a tool in the fight against other childhood cancers such as brain tumors and neuroblastoma. 

What are side effects of CAR T cell immunotherapy?
Modified T cells release cytokines, which are chemical messengers that help the T cells destroy foreign invaders. Sometimes, there can be a rapid release of cytokines and this can cause extremely high fevers and extreme drops in blood pressure. Several researchers have used complementary therapies to stop cytokine release syndrome and are also working to understand the genetic drivers of cytokine release syndrome. 

What potential does this have for other types of cancer?
For now, CAR T cell immunotherapy offers the most promise for leukemia. However, understanding how modified T cells attack blood cancers can lead to more discoveries on how these cells could also lead to cures for solid tissue tumors. 

Who has CAR T cell immunotherapy helped?
CAR T cell immunotherapy could offer promise for many children battling relapsed ALL. In our Spring 2017 newsletter, we shared the story of how ALSF-funded Young Investigator, Dr. Rebecca Gardner at Seattle Children’s Hospital helped a young girl reach remission for her relapsed leukemia. Read more here.