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Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Blog

Learn the story behind the Alex's Lemonade Days and Alex's Original Stand for childhood cancer.

Back where it all began. ALSF Founder Alex Scott, above, at one of her lemonade stands. 

by Trish Adkins

It all started with one front yard lemonade stand. 

ALSF Founder Alex Scott had one big idea: to host lemonade stands to help other kids just like her feel better. When Alex was just 4-years-old, she hosted her first lemonade stand. That first stand kept growing each year and four years later, when Alex was 8-years-old, her lemonade stand raised $1 million for childhood cancer research.

The last stand that Alex would attend was held at her elementary school, Penn Wynne Elementary School in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. Now 13 years later, Penn Wynne still hosts Alex’s “Original” Lemonade Stand on the second Saturday in June. 

We spoke with Alex’s parents about the early days of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and how Alex’s “Original” got its start. 

What are the origins of Alex’s big idea for a lemonade stand?

Jay:
Alex was 3-years-old and after many sit-downs with the doctors who offered us little hope, we heard of another doctor and an experimental treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). We made the trip and after Alex finished the treatment, she told us it had worked. She knew she felt better. Alex felt so good and I guess that gave her the idea that that was more to be done as far as research went.  

Liz:
We got home and Alex said just randomly, “Can I have a lemonade stand?” I didn’t think much of the request. It was the wintertime and it was cold outside, so I just told her we could when it got warmer.

Jay:
Alex kept asking. First, it was once a month, then once a week, then eventually once a day. Finally, Liz asked her “What is it you want to buy so badly?”

And when you asked her what she wanted, what did she say?

Liz:
She said she did not want anything. Alex said she wanted to help her doctors help kids like they had helped her. I was proud of her. But honestly, I thought it was adorable that she thought she could solve a big problem like cancer with a simple thing like a lemonade stand. 

Tell me about building her original stand. 

Jay:
Her first stand was just a little plastic kid-sized picnic table, one pitcher of lemonade and some handmade posters that Liz and the kids had made. It was nothing elaborate or that required a lot of time to build. We still tell people today that they can certainly build a stand if they want, but they do not have to – it can be as simple as a decorated table!

What was that first stand like?

Liz:
We had her first stand in Connecticut before we moved to Philadelphia. Friends and family showed up and remarkably, total strangers as well. We were blown away by the generosity of people and shocked that Alex was able to raise $2,000 with her stand that day. When I tucked her in at night, she told me that it was the best thing that ever happened to her. I knew then that it was really important to her – more than I had realized.  

Jay:
It was amazing, people came, some with smiles, some with tears, but they kept coming and coming! I had never seen anything like it before -- certainly not a lemonade stand like that before.  

What did Alex want you to do with the money?

Liz: 
For the first few years of her stand, we donated it for neuroblastoma research at her hospital, since she was battling neuroblastoma herself that made sense to me. One day Alex asked me what we were doing with the money and when I told her, she said “That is so selfish. All kids want their tumors to go away. We should be giving to all hospitals for all kinds of kids' cancers.” 

I knew then that she was right; this was not about finding a cure for her. It was about truly making a difference for all kids with cancer.  

How did Alex’s Lemonade Days evolve?

Liz: 
Alex’s first stand was held in our front yard in Connecticut. Then, when we moved the Philadelphia area in 2001,  Alex had all of her stands in our neighborhood outside of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story on her second Philly stand in 2002 and that is when things really started to take off. People started sending money to her from all over the country and they were holding their own lemonade stands as well.   

Jay: 
Alex kept holding stands in our front yard. Each year, she raised more money and her efforts were growing and growing. However, by 2004 the experimental treatments had stopped working. That is when Alex became even more determined to change things for other kids with cancer – she wanted to have one last stand and she set a goal of raising $1 million! When we asked her how she would raise a million dollars with a lemonade stand, she said, “If everyone has lemonade stands, I think we can do it.” That was the beginning of Lemonade Days—Alex really created that event.  

Liz:
It was incredible how people answered Alex’s call to action. Alex was on The Today Show and so many other news outlets. They were contacting us and telling us they were going to hold a lemonade stand. On the same day as her last stand, there were stands all across the country and donations flooded in. She was able to reach her goal by mid-July 2004 (with big help from Volvo*, who took her over her goal with a big donation). She passed away just 2 weeks later on August 1st — and I am so grateful that her final goal was met, that she was able to see the incredible support. I like to think that she knew it would continue without her, until the day when all children with cancer are cured.  

Each year, Alex's “Original” Stand is held at Penn Wynne Elementary School? Why is the school so important to the Foundation?

Liz:
When Alex was alive, Penn Wynne Elementary was her school. All 3 of her brothers have also attended, and we live just two blocks from it, so it is personally important to our family. The staff and families gave Alex and our family unconditional support. When Alex’s stand had outgrown our front yard, the principal of the school offered to move it to the school. This was the perfect place to hold her last stand—right in our neighborhood with all of our friends. After Alex passed away, the school continued to support our family in upholding her annual lemonade stand tradition.  

Jay: 
Even though our kids no longer attend Penn Wynne as they have moved on to middle school, high school, college and beyond,  we are amazed at the support the school community still shows for Alex’s cause. The kids love it and their families come out to support the stand even though they never knew Alex or our family. 

What is the energy like at Alex’s “Original” Lemonade Stand?

Liz:
It is a great day; so much fun for families with so many activities and things go do. But mixed into the fun are many reminders all day long of why we are doing it.  There are childhood cancer hero families who attend, we have a butterfly release to remember Alex and all children with cancer, and of course, photos of Alex and a beautiful wishing garden.  

Jay:  
We set up one of Alex’s lemonade stands. That small stand, amidst all the bigness of the event at Penn Wynne, reminds us how everyone can make a difference. That is the lesson that Alex taught us and curing childhood cancer is the job she left for us. 

Everyone wants their child to be successful in life. And Alex was successful. Her legacy and her dreams are coming true. We see it when we read the amazing scientific breakthroughs that our grants are making possible. We feel it when families tell us how ALSF helped them get to treatment. Alex’s “Original” is a celebration of where we came from and where we will go.

​Attend Alex’s “Original” Lemonade Stand! 
Appropriately named Alex’s “Original” Lemonade Stand, Alex’s friends and family continue to hold her stand which has evolved into a family fun event complete with food, games, crafts, face-painting, music, raffle baskets and (of course) lemonade, held at the school Alex attended, Penn Wynne Elementary School.

Amidst the fun is a beautiful butterfly release to commemorate and celebrate the lives of all children fighting cancer as well as those who have lost their life to the disease. In addition, Alex’s parents and brothers attend the event as well as several other childhood cancer heroes and their families. *Also, you can purchase a $25 raffle ticket to win a car from Volvo! Get the details here. 

You can purchase an Alex's All Access Pass that includes all donations for activities, food and a commemorative Alex's "Original" t-shirt. Purchase your pass here.

Categories: 
Alex Scott
You can't ever say Thank you enough! Here are great ways to thank your supporters

You can't ever say Thank You enough! 

by Jenna Caroccia, ALSF Donor Appreciation and Development Coordinator 

Lemonade Days is quickly approaching and you’re all ready to host an outstanding event. You’ve chosen the date, ordered the lemonade and publicized your stand all over town. You have a fundraising plan and with that, something amazing will happen - you will raise funds for children fighting cancer and make a positive impact in the world. All of us at ALSF are so thankful for your amazing help! 
After the photos are posted and the funds are turned into ALSF, it’s time for you to thank your supporters!  Did you know that the most important thing you’ll ever do in a successful fundraising campaign is to say thank you? Saying thank you is not just an expression of gratitude and good manners, it’s the way to build meaningful relationships with your donors. When done well, recognition will encourage future gifts and continued involvement, whether through volunteering or being an ambassador for your stand. It also helps encourage gifts from other networks or companies. When people see their friends and family members are passionate about a cause, they might consider supporting as well - that’s the true power of a thank you. 

Follow these 10 tips and tricks and start thanking!

1. Write a Handwritten Thank You Note
Handwritten notes are becoming a thing of the past, but sometimes they're the best way to help your message stand out. Taking the time to write a thoughtful, handwritten note shows your supporters that they mean a lot to you.  

2. Share Your Progress
Share your stand success with pride! By adding a sentence about progress, this allows your donor to see the tangible difference that they are making. “This year, we have proudly raised $1,500, which is $500 more than last year. We could not have done it without you! Thank you!” 

3. Don't Ask, Just Thank
Thank you notes should contain gratitude, and make your supporter feel appreciated. If you thank them with enthusiasm now, you should definitely ask again in a month or two—and if you do it right, they’ll be more than happy to give next time.

4. Include a Photograph 
Say lemonade! What better way to thank your supporter than sending them a special reminder from the day. Whether you send a photo of them or of the kids mixing and pouring, it is sure to be appreciated. 

5. Be Specific about Where the Money is Going
Be specific and report to your supporters with pride that they have helped raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a national childhood cancer foundation dedicated to raising funds for research into new treatments and cures for all children battling cancer.

6. Pick-up the Phone! 
Try to take time out of the week for you or your kids to call your supporters and volunteers and thank them for all they do! Bonus points: If you happen to get a voicemail, add some pizazz and come up with a special thank you jingle or song.  

7. Keep your ALSF Stand Coach in the Loop! 
Always remember to keep your stand coach in the loop of how your stand went and your awesome donors and volunteers. If you had an extraordinary donation or a company supported your stand, connect with us and we will be happy to send them a thank you note or phone call, too! We are here to help you every step of the way! 

8. Record a Video Message
Break out the video camera, and start thanking! This is a fun, interactive way to say thank you. It's a great tool to use on social media platforms, too! 

9. Host a home-cooked meal for your top donors and volunteers
If you have top five donors or a planning committee, why not go the extra mile and plan a thank you dinner. (Bonus tip: Check out Alex’s Table cookbook for some inspiration!) 

10. Say it from your Heart 
No one can share your story quite like you. When you believe in something with your mind and your heart, you bring it to life. 

No matter how you express your gratitude, say it often. When you send a sincere thank you note or take the time to give your volunteer a call, it shows that their donation and effort has been noticed and appreciated. Not only that, but your thank you message is a chance to deliver the warm feelings of goodwill that drive people to give. 

Thank you for all you do and thank you for joining us in our fight against childhood cancer. (Oh, and thank you for reading this article, too! ☺) 

Jenna is a proud employee at Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. As the Donor Appreciation & Development Coordinator, Jenna enjoys working with individual donors and building meaningful and relationships with our supporters. She says she's never been happier than she is right now putting her talents and her energy to work as part of a team committed to achieving Alex's dream of finding a cure for childhood cancer. 

Categories: 
Lemonade Days

by Jaime Horenstein, ALSF Social Media Specialist

Calling all social media mavens! You can harness the power of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social platforms to spread the word about your lemonade stand and join the fight against childhood cancer. Social media is such a great way to announce your event, invite your community, raise funds and tell everyone about how you are helping cure cancer, one cup at a time! 
 
1.  Share your fundraising page on social media. Have family and friends from out of town that can’t make it to your lemonade stand? Share your fundraising page with your network and have loved ones donate online. 

2.  Change your Facebook profile picture frame. Show your Facebook friends you’re fighting childhood cancer by choosing from two frames that highlight Lemonade Days! We have a quick how-to video for you to use. Changing your picture frame takes just 2 minutes! 

3. Tag Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.  I see it all! When you tag us on social media, I can like and comment as Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Plus, you help me by giving me great content that I might be able to share on our ALSF social media pages (more about that below).

4. Share ALSF content. We post every day about heroes, campaigns, research and lots of other ways to get involved. If you see a post (because we know you already follow us ;)) share, like or comment to help explain our mission to your followers. 

5. Check out our blog, Hero Hub and YouTube Channel.  You can also share blogs, hero stories and videos from our website! Our blog is filled with inspirational and informational stories, including in-depth research profiles and explanations about how treatments work. Our childhood cancer Hero Hub is filled with stories of amazing kids fighting for a cure! And of course, our YouTube page holds videos that help with lemonade stands, explain critical research and tell stories of childhood cancer heroes.

6.  Be featured on our pages. Take photos at your lemonade stand, tag @AlexsLemonade and use #LemonadeDays and you could be featured on our social media pages! You can also send photos to your event coach after your stand who can forward them to me so I can give you a shout out for your hard work and dedication!

See you on Social!

Register your stand today for Alex's Lemonade Days! 

Jaime Horenstein is the ALSF social media maven! She loves connecting with families and reading their amazing inspirational stories. 

Categories: 
Lemonade Days
Great lemonade stand tips from an experienced lemonade stand host.

Above, the Lemonettes (AKA the Martelli family) at their annual Lemonade Stand

by Jeff Tepper, City Dads Group

About five years ago, Don Martelli’s daughters Kayla and Jordan (now ages 13 and 10) started a summer bucket list, at the advice of his wife Susan. One of the ideas was to hold a lemonade stand and donate the money to charity. Don took to Google for some direction and found out about Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). The rest, as they say, is history. His kids were touched by the idea that they could raise money for other kids in need, and he and his wife couldn’t imagine the struggle facing the parents of kids affected by cancer. With those feelings as their motivation, the Martellis embraced the mission to hold a lemonade stand and raise money for pediatric cancer.  Don and his family have held the stand every year since, and have raised over $15,000 for ALSF.  

For Don, an active father and member of the Boston Dads Group (an outpost of City Dads Group), involving his kids in the operation of the stand is paramount. His daughters participate every step of the way, from painting the stand to helping spread the word, and of course serving the lemonade. His kids are also the focal point of the stand’s identity. Using his background in marketing, Don felt his stand would benefit from having a brand name. His girls named themselves “The Lemonettes,” and the name stuck. Don created accounts for The Lemonettes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the family uses Snapchat geo-filters during the stand’s operation.  

The start was humble.

“We had no clue what we were doing,” Don said. “Other than inviting our friends and family to come by the house for some lemonade and a barbecue. We didn’t promote heavy on social media and we bought a cardboard lemonade stand, which was super flimsy and hard to keep up when the wind blew.”  

Despite the inexperience and difficulties, the family still raised almost $2,000. The next year, the Martellis bought a better stand, used social media more and by the third year, Don built a collapsible stand out of 2x4s, which he now uses each year. He also started to notify local politicians and media outlets, and they responded by stopping by. In the fourth and fifth years, the family used paid social media posts and made some tweaks to their setup to gain more visibility. Going into the sixth year this summer, The Lemonettes stand has become a staple in the neighborhood that all look forward to. With as many as 50 folks present at any given time, they stop traffic and draw attention.  

When asked for some advice to pass on to other stand holders, Don said, “In the end, fundraising is all about tapping into your personal and professional network, and then having them do the same. The more people talk about your stand [in person and on social media], the more the stand will grow. I think we've been so successful because we are very aggressive about marketing the date online and doing so in a way that is fun, engaging and reminds people about this important cause. Now that we've done this five years in a row, we have a foundational support base that will always donate every year.” Five years in, the Martellis’ challenge is continued growth and expansion of that network. As they get ready for their sixth year fundraising for ALSF, it’s a safe bet that The Lemonettes won’t be stopping anytime soon. 

Jeff Tepper is a co-organizer and blogger for Dallas Dads Group, an outpost of City Dads Group. A full-time licensed clinical social worker, Jeff also helps City Dads Group identify and work with nonprofit agencies to help charitable causes. A native of Massachusetts who moved to Texas in 2010, Jeff loves Boston sports, still thinks ‘Nique was robbed in ’88, and has never been able to decide if his favorite hip hop group is A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul.

City Dads Group is a dynamic and diverse community of fathers dedicated to being active in their children’s lives and, by example, redefining what it means to be a dad in the 21st century. City Dads Group has chapters in over 20 major metropolitan areas throughout the United States, which host meetups for dads and kids to get together for socialization and support. City Dads Group is also active online and on social media, publishing blog posts and The Modern Dads Podcast.  For more information, please visit http://citydadsgroup.com/

Brain tumor cells use the process of autophagy to survive. Childhood cancer researcher Dr. Levy is working to stop the process and kill cancer cells.

An ALSF-funded researcher is working to combat the process of autophagy and destroy brain tumor cells. Above, brain tumor cells under stress show a high level of autophagy, as exhibited by the brown spots. 

by Trish Adkins

In order to survive, the cells of the body are constantly recycling within themselves, taking proteins inside the cell, scooping them up, breaking the proteins down and releasing the energy back into the cell as new building blocks. Every cell in the body performs this process, called autophagy. The word literally means “self-eating,” and in addition to giving cells an internal source of energy, autophagy also helps cells remain healthy by keeping invaders like bacteria, viruses or chemotherapy out. Cells that live in harsh environments—environments like the brain where cells have limited blood supply—are skilled at using autophagy to survive. 

Brain tumor cells are experts at autophagy and use the process to survive chemotherapy, becoming resistant to treatment, leaving doctors without effective tools to stop cell growth and leaving children and their families without hope for a cure.

Until now. 

Jean Mulcahy Levy, MD, an ALSF Young Investigator grant recipient, is studying how stopping autophagy can be an effective treatment for some types of brain tumors.

Autophagy: Key to Cell Survival 
Dr. Levy's research on autophagy is based on the discovery of the 2016 Nobel Prize winning scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi. Ohsumi first detected the process of autophagy in yeast. The process helps explain how human beings can survive in extreme situations, like starvation, and also how cancer cells can survive treatments that should work, but simply do not. 

Anytime cells become stressed out—whether by treatment or cell environment—they ramp up their recycling process to survive.  

Autophagy and the BRAF Mutation
Dr. Levy’s research discovered that brain tumors with a BRAF mutation inhibiting autophagy can stop the tumors from becoming treatment resistant, allowing chemotherapy to work and eliminate disease. 

The BRAF mutation is the most common genetic mutation found in human cancers and is found across a variety of low grade and some of the harder to treat high-grade brain tumors, such as high-grade glioblastoma.

Dr. Levy used chloroquine, a medicine originally created to treat malaria in the 1950s, to inhibit autophagy. Since it is already approved for patient use, the drug is safe and readily available.  In the treatment of malaria, chloroquine stopped the malaria parasite from living in the blood cells. In the treatment of brain cancer, Dr. Levy’s hope was that chloroquine would stop autophagy and overcome the resistance to chemotherapy, killing the brain cancer cells and bringing children closer to a cure. 

And it worked. 

In Dr. Levy’s lab tests and with three patients battling relapsed brain tumors with the BRAF mutation, chloroquine used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation resulted in positive clinical outcomes. The brain tumor cells became susceptible to chemotherapy protocols.

The next step for Dr. Levy’s research is a clinical trial, which will expand the number of patients treated and continue to prove the safety and efficacy of chloroquine for autophagy inhibition in patients with the BRAF mutation. 

“Identifying new treatment options like autophagy inhibition, allows us to treat patients who have exhausted treatment options,” says Dr. Levy. “It also provides another option for patients for whom newer immunotherapies have failed.”

Dr. Levy’s work, “Autophagy inhibition overcomes multiple mechanisms of resistance to BRAF inhibition in brain tumors,” was published in the January 17, 2017 issue of eLife.

Read more about Dr. Levy’s work here. 

Categories: 
Autophagy

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