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When the board of Gratitude Generation decided we wanted to team up and support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to help raise money for pediatric cancer research, it seemed like a perfect fit for the organization’s mission: Instill gratitude in future generations through education and service. Having a lemonade stand for charity is service – and it’s fun, tasty and lemony, outdoorsy and easy to do anywhere with kids and adults of all ages. Perfection!
But we’re six months old and while we’ve had an amazing run from idea to government-certified nonprofit in just a few months, plus an ever-growing calendar of service opps and programming, the beginning of June is a cluster of chaos for most families. Soccer and baseball, dance recitals and plays, band performances and graduations – the calendar is full, and the commitments are like Gremlins in the light.
So knowing at least a few families in it to win it (mine included!), we set a modest fundraising goal for the weekend, registered on ALSF’s page, and Team Grateful for Lemons was born. Quick backstory here: Alex was a toddler when she was diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to sell lemonade to earn money for research and to help her doctors, and though she was taken from the world at the unthinkably young age of 8, her parents launched an incredible, powerful, nationwide organization to raise money for this important cause. Can you believe that less than 4 percent of government funding for cancer research is allocated to pediatric cancer? These are kids, people, kids! And not one should be a victim to the c-word. Not one, ever.
The Whole Kit and Caboodle
ALSF is an incredible organization, and once we signed up, they rallied behind us. They sent kits with decorations, guidelines, stickers, bracelets, flags and even a coupon for free Country Time Lemonade (our new favorite company for obvious reasons). And so we quickly distributed kits to our Grateful for Lemons team across the Chicagoland area and even in Washington. The energy started building and the excitement was palpable. In our house, we were so excited and that we jumpstarted the weekend and had our first of three locations right after school on our street that sunny Friday afternoon. Our neighbors came out in support, pulling far more than $1 at a time out of their wallets – we had $175 before dinner!
My family had two more at baseball and soccer games over the weekend (See, you can make the chaos work for you sometimes!), there was a multi-family event in Lincolnshire, Ill., that raised more than $700, there were teens from the Gratitude Generation Kids’ Board stationed in front of a popular restaurant in Highland Park, Ill., one in Highwood, Ill., families across the area came out in droves -- the response was incredible as more than a customer or two paid $10 or more for a cup of lemonade and a snack!
Team Grateful for Lemons had 30 stands over the weekend, so you can do the math. You may be getting the idea that our modest goal of $1,500 was laughable, as we got report after report via social media buzz around the Gratitude Generation’s team and the generous and heartfelt response from our communities.
When all was said and done -- about $5,500! Yep, $5,500! The money is powerful, and according to ALSF, $2,000 funds a week of research. We’re proud and grateful to have contributed enough for almost three weeks. But there was something else remarkable here: People doing good, feeling good, considering other people, taking moments to feel grateful for what they have and their own health, for their children, their healthy children and the ones who have fought and won.
The mission of the Gratitude Generation came to life in one windy weekend, as we spread our own mission in support of another’s. Everyone who participated in any way felt the glow -- the gratitude glow you get from giving and receiving gratitude. It’s real, so, so real!
The inspiration for ALSF’s Lemonade Days and our weekend is sour: Childhood cancer is more sour than just about anything imaginable. But the experience of working to do something to fight it is all sweet. 100 percent sweet success, not even a touch of sour.
('Laterpost': This event happened in June 2018.)
('Laterpost': This event came to life in August 2018.)
Getting Everyone Set for Success – We Did It!
I have a living room with no coffee table, only fabulous couches and wide open spaces where my daughter does handstands at any opportunity. Why, you might ask, would you care about that? Well, it’s important to you only because the available space made room in my house, in our community and in our hearts to fulfill the Gratitude Generation’s mission to inspire gratitude through service and education – and it inspired smiles on so many faces, about 250 if we’re counting.
Our first-ever Sponsor-a-Student School Supply Program was an incredible success, and we’re grateful and in awe (once again!) of the community and of your big hearts and generous wallets. Said living room was the supply headquarters, where we thought we’d get about 100 sets of supplies for students right here on the North Shore, as well as in Chicago. But so many of you reached out, took our assigned lists (some much more complex and daunting than others!) and grabbed a kid or two to hit the stores, that we extended our reach to Waukegan and Evanston. We were hoping that you’d shop or organize with your children, which would inspire great conversations and an easy way to point out that there are an unfathomable number of children starting school this year without the bare necessities. And it worked!
As my living room filled with grocery bags bursting with spirals, pencils, personal care items and more, many of the cuties dropping bags on my porch were proud to deliver the goods, tell me how they picked things at Target and Walmart, and how they knew another kid would love the lunch bag they had carefully selected. And the parents… As we hauled bags out of your trunks, it was amazing to hear tales of conquering the more complicated lists, how you were even more grateful to your own schools and PTOs for taking this task off your to-do list and how you’d be happy to support more students, if we needed it.
Blowing Past Our Goal
Believe me, when we hit post on that first day of the program, we had about 80 students to sponsor and were hatching a plan to raise some funds if we needed to buy the supplies ourselves. And then… One private message after another came pouring in and in the first 24 hours we had assigned every list. During the following three days, we added more and more and more. 150 students were sponsored by about 100 incredible families! Amazing! My living room HQ quickly spread to the foyer, the dining room, and down the hall.
We sorted and organized, added even more goodies and gift cards to the bags, and we began to distribute them across Chicagoland. The experience felt indescribable – it was our mission come to life in such an impactful way. I asked some of the families to share with me their thoughts. Take a look, I’m sure you’ll experience second-hand gratitude:
“My kids really liked picking out school supplies for other kids. They were excited to be able to gift new supplies to someone their own age, knowing how excited they get when they receive new school supplies themselves. As their mom, I loved seeing how thoughtful they were in choosing the supplies they chose, for kids they have never even met. It warms my heart to know that my kids are learning how to be grateful for what they have, while also having the desire to share with others.” – Julie
“Supply shopping together for this great organization was a wonderful experience! My daughter saw first-hand how she was helping little boys and girls who aren’t as fortunate as her! She was a bit sad at times when she realized that some kids don’t have the money to even buy ‘something small’ from the Target Dollar Spot! I loved the time I spent with my daughter doing this and look forward to helping again in the future!” – Mindy
“My sons (13 and 6) planned our outing to Target and Staples. They were confident in their choices, organized in checking items off the list and even wanted to throw in a few extra items that they love to use on a regular basis.” – Stacey
My own kids, too – having lived in the supplies HQ chaos for a few weeks – had a much more noticeable appreciation for the amazing package of supplies waiting for them at school this year. They even thanked me for ordering them so they could be prepared for the year. The impact of this project will resonate for months in the hearts of those who contributed and those who received. We did it, we got everyone set for success! And we provided service, education and gratitude – our ultimate goal, which we work to deliver to our community every day.
To those 100 families – the adults, the children, everyone who participated in any way – we are grateful and proud. 150 students will start the year feeling confident and prepared to learn. That’s 250 hearts full of gratitude, with the gratitude “Glow” transferring to so many others – that is amazing, simply amazing.
“If you build it, they will come.” Experiencing one of the best movie lines in history, we lived the dream when Gratitude Generation hosted our official launch party and so many of you came. Hundreds of people filed into the Highwood Rec Center with bags of toy donations, and with open hearts and wallets to celebrate our launch and support our mission of creating opportunities for education and service that inspire gratitude.
It wasn’t 70 degrees and sunny (one of our only big attendance worries after a painfully long winter!), it wasn’t nice enough or dry enough on the fields for sports, and it wasn’t even a deterrent to our amazing community when it dropped to 36 degrees and started snowing!
For those of you who attended, thank you from the bottoms of our hearts. And for those of who you couldn’t be there or want to remember the fun, I’ll construct the field of dreams here for you.
In some ways, we began planning this event six months ago. After all, the initial seed of this organization was to plan an event where kids could come donate their toys and experience the joy of giving. When the concept of the Gratitude Generation grew from that seed, the single event became an official launch party, with so many other great events as a lead-up and introduction to our mission. So on April 15, 2018, when our exec board, our families, our incredible kids’ board and a handful of huge-hearted volunteers unloaded car after car of supplies and donations, we brought the gym to life and the seed bloomed.
The junior kids’ board didn’t stop hustling as they greeted family after family, taking their toy donations and sorting them by type to be distributed that very afternoon. The impact from the toy collection was huge! We collected 30 huge cases of toys to be donated to four regional organizations including the Ronald McDonald House, the Weinberg Senior Center, the Cook County Juvenile Court System and Sue Ghandi Sai Seva Empowerment for Women.
There was our Gratitude Gift assembly line – a project at the heart of our mission, and one ongoing to help support a growing number of organizations who will distribute our gifts to families in need. With great enthusiasm, people filled bags with cake mix, candles, napkins and a few fun treats – the energy and commitment were so great that we tackled the 100 bags planned for the day in no time. (We may have even given some little ones a chance to fill gifts by… unpacking a few! We had to ensure the message of service was delivered to each and every person who participated!)
Thanks to the incredible generosity of people donating gift cards to big retailers, each bag has a gift card to buy essentials, including eggs and oil, and a homemade birthday card made at the party. A big portion of the Gratitude Gifts filled were already delivered to CASA THIS week! Again, immediate impact!
Of course, expressing gratitude to someone in your life who makes a difference is core to what we preach, so at the party were incredibly beautiful postcards to fill out and deliver right there on the spot, or in the mail. Kids and adults were taking moments of conscious gratitude, and one junior board member made her mom’s day by slipping a postcard in her back pocket! She’s grateful for me and took a moment to say it – the best feeling ever for BOTH of us!
The gym was rockin’ with the help of Bizar Entertainment (thank you!) and kids were running around and gigging with FSA’s one-and-only Coach Ed playing Minute-to-Win-It games (thank you!). Smiles were big and giggles were loud, that’s for sure!
And, of course, there were opportunities to support our mission through an incredible Silent Auction and Surprise Balloons, which meant that generous attendees paid for a balloon not even knowing what prize they’d receive. And, surprise! The balloons sold out in the first 40 minutes of the event! Thank you, thank you!
And our Silent Auction was a HUGE success, as everyone scrambled around to get fun prizes and good deals – even the kiddos got in on the action, as more than a few parents approached the check-out table with their kid’s winning bid sheets in hand. Thank you, thank you to the amazing community of vendors who supported us with donations, and thank you, thank you to all of you who bid on items. We’ve got many great ideas in the hopper for service and education programs, and none of it is possible without funding.
The energy was palpable in the foyer with Taste Buds Kitchen decorating cupcakes (thank you!), amazing postcards for sale to continue the gratitude practice at home (we have more to sell, if you loved them), and the kids’ board was stationed there introducing the community to the “Glow Movement.”
The kids’ board created beautiful beaded bracelets with representative colors to our values – gratitude, generosity, strength and trust – and they glow! That way, when you’re wearing them, buying them for others or when you see them around town, you’ll remember to practice gratitude and feel the mental- and physical-health glow that comes from being grateful.
There was outstanding face painting, snacks to fuel the fun, and overall, the event was something for everyone. The energy in the space was so positive, so encouraging, so inspiring – the gratitude flowing was incredible!
The launch party meant so much to us and this community. It meant that what we’ve been working tirelessly to build is resonating. It meant that there is a need in our community (and our world) to provide families with kids of all ages opportunities to learn the practice of gratitude and service, and to help make the world a happier, safer place. It meant that if we build it, you will come.
The stadium was abuzz as 30 riders clipped into their indoor-cycle shoes, began messing with the wheel and the lever, and got pumped for the second of four events to sweat for charity in support of Gratitude Generation. And the energy was palpable – the WheelPower Studio regulars were hitting 90+ RPM in the warm-up while a significant number of newbies were sweating already in fear, anxiety, excitement and, sometimes, just plain confusion as the lights dropped, the music blared and we hit our pace.
The one-and-only Tracy Chudnow Schy has a way with the playlist, and she certainly delivered with one pump-up anthem after another. We were “Heroes” (Alesso), who plan to “Save the World” (Swedish House Mafia), in “One Tribe” (Black Eyed Peas) while we’re “Not Afraid” (Eminem) to “Rise Up” (Andra Day) and proclaim: “This is Me” (The Greatest Showman)!
There were these and so many more great moments in the 45-minute, body-pumping, heart-filling, inspiring indoor-cycle ride to raise funds to support service projects and this amazing organization that has gone from one Facebook post planting a seed to a government-endorsed 501c3 charity in just five months.
Drenched in sweat, filled with pride and astonishment at the energy created in the stadium (both energy points earned on the bikes and in our spirits), so many of us hugged and snapped pics. We were feeling the endorphins surge through our bodies thanks to the satisfaction of tackling the class (regulars and beginners alike!) coupled with the knowledge that we did it all to give back. Something good for us and to benefit others!
Certainly we jotted down on a small banner what we were grateful for that day. Taking a moment to journal or just jot something down creates a moment of consciousness to practice gratitude, and that’s so good for you! It may not torch the calories like our ride, but the benefits are invaluable to our health and well-being.
Huge hugs and gratitude to Tracy, Donnie and the WheelPower crew for hosting us and reminding us to do something critical in our efforts to positively influence the world -- “Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)!
Check out some fun pics from the event here.
More opportunities to sweat for charity are coming up -- join us next week on our mats in an adult Yoga class.
There are few things sweeter and more gratitude inspiring than kids from the ages of 3-15 and their parents and grandparents doing animal-named yoga poses and practicing meditation breaths together on a sunny, albeit brisk, Saturday afternoon. This was the scene yesterday for our first of four amazing March Madness fundraising events where we’re going to sweat for charity and raise funds to support g2 service projects. March Madness, in particular, will support our upcoming service project at our Launch Party to put birthday supplies in gratitude bags that will be delivered to foster children. (You can still sign up for any and all of our March Madness events AND our Launch Party April 15th!)
For this Family Yoga event, we were yogis adept at dancer pose mixed with true beginners and every level in between learning the art of belly breathing and toe touching, and the warm, sunny room welcomed us all. We worked our way through the alphabet as we did A-to-Z Yoga with the amazing Lani Gerszonovicz leading us and inspiring everyone to push outside of our comfort zones, find and listen to our inner breath and voices, and recognize how important it is to feel our inner energy. We even squeezed an imaginary ball between our palms, and it pushed back!
We stretched like a giraffe (triangle pose!) -- some of our little yogis even had some creative fun with their fingers and gave their giraffes a snack. We twisted on the floor and snapped like alligators, of course we were cats and dogs (downward!), and we practiced breath with intention and gratitude.
We finished our practice in group poses – blossoming flowers and hearts bursting with happiness and healthy perspectives. Everyone was glowing – and glistening from the heat – and the response was awe-inspiring. One thoughtful attendee brought “Live Happy” stickie notes we placed on our mats to remind us to “Be an Inspiration,” and “Be the reason someone smiles today.” Each and every person at the event was a reason to smile AND an inspiration!
Huge gratitude to everyone who shared in this event and to our awesome Kids’ Board members who did a great job representing us and supporting our causes. Big thanks to the generous hospitality of Shri Yoga Center and the amazing Lani Gerszonovicz, who has a contagious energy and the most happy, positive perspective. She’s a gift to anyone, and g2 is thrilled to partner with her. (Stay tuned for more opps to practice Family Yoga with her!)
Check out the amazing pics that captured the energy and gratitude flowing at our event - click here.
Grateful Girl, Jill Rivkin