Originating in the Fall of 2009 through the efforts of just two people (Pete Lenskold and Jacky Maleno), in its inaugural season (and extremely poor weather conditions) the Lemon Bowl Flag Football Tournament™ attracted almost 65 players. For a donation of just $20 per player, eight teams played five games of flag football in the rain and mud for more than four hours at West Branch Park (often referred to as “wet” branch by the local – and wet it was!) in Chalfont, PA. Accompanied by a little more than a dozen helpers (some as young as eight) and a handful of spectators, the event raised just over nine hundred dollars ($900) for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in honor of the charity’s founder – Alex Scott. With donations of cash, prizes and gift certificates for their products and services, thirty-six (36) sponsors helped fund the start-up of the event and many continue to donate annually. The inaugural season was won by The Drafters. And thus it began.
Despite the weather of the previous year, the fun of the event and the cause it supports warranted a repeat and so in October 2010 was held the 2 nd Annual Lemon Bowl Flag Football Tournament™, again at West Branch Park. Year two was bigger and better in every way (except the weather, which of course was rain and mud again). With the help of six Central Bucks South High School students who canvassed the local community hanging up flyers and soliciting for donations we grew to more than 120 players across 14 teams and donated over $2,500 to ALSF (a 171% increase). Thanks to our young volunteers, the list of sponsors grew to seventy-six (76)! The 2nd annual tournament was won by the Naked Bootleg but the best addition to the tournament was the introduction of an ALSF Hero Ambassador. We were privileged to have cancer survivor Felicia Frugoli and her family as our special guests. Her mother Renee gave an emotionally filled speech about the day life changes for the whole family when you hear the words “your child has cancer”. No parent should have to hear this and no child should have to struggle with this terrible disease. And for those reasons…we play!
By year three, the Lemon Bowl Flag Football Tournament™ starting attracting a following with players who were strangers a year or two before were now friends for a cause and anxious to hear the date for the next event. So in 2011 we went at it again and no surprises…we grew, donated more and the weather was a factor. While we initially grew to 18 teams, a rare October snow storm that delayed us a week and relocated us to Klinger Middle School in Southampton, also costs us four teams that weren’t able to reschedule. Nonetheless, we ended up with a bright sunny day, over 140 players and doubled our previous year’s fundraising, donating more than $5,100 to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and their fight to cure childhood cancer. With almost all of our sponsors back, we lost a few, gained a few and finished with just under 80 sponsors. Our sunny day and record turnout was highlighted by the appearance of our ALSF Hero Ambassador, Alex Newman and his parents. A Bucks County local, Alex had been born with stage IV neuroblastoma. As an infant he was admitted immediately for surgery to remove the tumor from his spinal column, followed by three months of chemotherapy. Happily, Alex is now a high school student and cancer survivor. So for Alex, Felicia, Alex and all kids fighting cancer…we took to the gridiron once more. And continuing with the no-surprises…the Drafters were back in the winner’s circle holding high their 2nd Lemon Bowl trophy.
It was in 2012 things started to change, thanks in large part to the platinum sponsorship of the Lemon Bowl Flag Football Tournament™ by the Brick House Tavern & Tap located in Willow Grove, PA. Their generous donation combined with the donations of another 75+ sponsors made significant contributions to our fundraising efforts. With word of the Lemon Bowl spreading we had a remarkable response to our event, growing to 22 teams and over 225 players and forcing us to move to the Dennis Landis Memorial Park (home of the Horsham Hawks), a larger facility in Horsham that could accommodate our growth. The collective generosity of our sponsors, players, volunteers and contributors donated a whopping $10,000 to ALSF! An unplanned encounter introduced us to Jackie Renk who served as our Special Guest of Honor and gave our audience a beautiful speech. Jackie’s teenage son Matthew passed away a few years earlier from a cancerous brain tumor. Jackie leads her own non-profit organization in honor of Matthew and like ALSF, raises money to fight childhood cancer. We applaud Jackie for her efforts and appreciate her participation in our event. Losing a child is unimaginable. And while playing football offers no condolence, fundraising for ALSF and hoping fewer families have to go through this horrendous ordeal is our purpose. We play on! As I mentioned, 2012 was a year of change and that included a change at the top. The 4th annual tournament trophy was hoisted by The Dairy Farmers, one of the original 8 teams.
Now in Year 5…we realize we’ve got something good! We’ve got repeating teams, reoccurring sponsors, a great collection of volunteers and starting to get some decent media coverage. The Lemon Bowl Flag Football Tournament™ is officially an event to attend! Recognized as a Grand Stand by ALSF, we are working hard to spread the word, raise money and make a difference. The 2013 event was a homerun (or touchdown if that aligns more applicably)! Playing at the beautiful Lukens Park in Horsham, we had 24 teams and over 240 players. We had record attendance in both volunteers and spectators. And in regards to sponsors, the Brick House Tavern & Tap once again stepped up to be our platinum sponsor but we also got incredible donations from MavenWire and many other wonderful organizations. Their donations along with those of all who attended added up. And added up BIG! To the sum of over $16,000. Collectively over the five years, the Lemon Bowl has now donated over $34,000 to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. This year, we had the pleasure of two Special Guests of Honor, the Clemens family and Jay Scott, father of Alex and President of ALSF. With her cancer surviving daughter Kaitlyn by her side, we enjoyed heart-wrenching speech from Nicole Clemens followed by a very inspirational speech by Jay. To top it off, we were joined by past Hero Ambassadors the Frugoli and Newman families. With motivation now running through their veins, the players took to the field and after a long day and many competitive games, the Drafters came out victorious for the unprecedented third time. Not too shabby!
And now, we gear up for the 6th Annual Lemon Bowl Flag Football Tournament™ currently scheduled for Saturday, October 25 th, 2014 tentatively planned to play at Lukens Park in Horsham but stay tuned. We hope that you will join us!