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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 12, 2008

When life gives you cancer, sell lemonade

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Alexandra Scott left a legacy when she died of cancer in 2004 and the children at Pine Bush Elementary School have inherited the cause.

Second-grade students of Laurie Haecker and Heather Thomas — two score in all — set up lemonade stands in school on Friday to raise funds to fight childhood cancer.

“Our kids know people who have had cancer,” said Haecker. “They felt really good about doing something. They always talked about ‘helping Alex’ but it was really all kids.”

Alexandra, the second of Jay and Liz Scott’s four children, was born in Manchester, Conn. in 1996 and was diagnosed with neuroblastoma just before her first birthday.

The day after her fourth birthday, according to the not-for-profit charity that is carrying on her work, she had a stem cell transplant and told her mother, “When I get out of the hospital I want to have a lemonade stand.” She wanted to give the money to doctors to help them find a cure.

Alex continued with her mission until she died at the age of 8. “News spread of the remarkable sick child dedicated to helping other sick children,” says Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. “People from all over the world, moved by her story, held their own lemonade stands and donated the proceeds...With the help of others, she had raised over $1 million to help find a cure for the disease that took her life.”

Haecker said she read about the foundation in a children’s magazine. “We talked about it at school, about kids helping kids,” she said. The foundation sent a kit including a book written by the Scott family and five yellow bandannas.

The second-graders were inspired by Alex’s story but not devastated, said their teacher.

“They knew she had died but focused on helping other children,” said Haecker.

Her class had had a guinea pig named Oreo and had held an Oreo ice-cream sale earlier in the year to raise money to care for the pet.

“Oreo died shortly after the ice-cream sale,” said Haecker. “That was sad. But the kids were OK...If you’re open and you talk about things with children, they’re OK.”

The second-graders liked the bandannas that came in the kit and one was made for each Pine Bush student in the two classes. Some of them wore their yellow bandannas around their necks, others on their heads the way a cancer patient might. “They talked about Alex’s brown curly hair” and how hair can fall out during cancer treatments, said Haecker.

Learning by doing

The students read The Lemonade War, unrelated to the foundation. The book, by Jacqueline Davies, is about a brother and a sister who run a lemonade stand together.

“They get into sibling rivalry,” said Haecker, explaining that the younger sister is about to skip a grade into the brother's class, which upsets him. “That started the war,” said Haecker.

Each sets up a separate operation and they hold a contest to see who can sell the most lemonade. There is sabotage with dirt and bugs in the midst of fierce competition.

“Both, at the end, call it even and donate the money to animal rescue,” said Haecker. “They decide they like it better the way it was before,” she said of working together.

Among other things, her students learned about marketing from the book — “location, location, location,” said Haecker. The second-graders set up four stands at Pine Bush Elementary and had another mobile concession, on a wagon.

Students rotated through a series of different jobs on Friday, which included making lemonade, selling lemonade, counting money, and writing a story about it.

To pique interest in the sale, the second-graders went, in pairs, to classrooms throughout the school, telling about their project.

The lemonade sold for 50 cents a cup and $700 was raised on Friday. Some kids had stands at home over the weekend, with takes ranging from $14.50 to $100, said Haecker.

”All of the money goes to the foundation,” she said, explaining that the PTA had paid for lemonade, cups, and ice — all the expenses.

The project addressed several areas of the second-grade curriculum, said Haecker, such as learning to count money. Reading The Lemonade War was an English language arts project and the second-graders learned about advertising and economics, said Haecker.

“But the biggest thing is it teaches kids to have empathy,” she said. “It’s children helping children.”

Haecker concluded, “It’s important to help others...This encourages kids to do it on their own. It’s really all the kids working together.”

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