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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.
Grateful Girl, Jill Rivkin