By Melissa Ford
When 9/11 happened I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of pride in our country, and a powerlessness to make a difference. Giving to relief efforts helped ease the pain, but certainly wasn’t there something more we could do? As I was pondering that question, a neighborhood block of concerned parents and kids got down to work, creating an annual event, Kids Helping Kids 9/11 Charity LemonAid Stand, that has made a more than a difference.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and LemonAid Stand, an organization created by residents on the 700 block of Bonnie Brae Place in River Forest, who empowered themselves and their children by creating a neighborhood event (LemonAid Stand), raising money every September 11th to support local organizations providing services for children and families in need.
According to Patty Henek, one of several parents behind LemonAid Stand, “When 9/11 occurred, we needed to do something and not let the day go by. We wanted something that the kids could relate to, something they could get involved in. Our Initial thought was to raise money and send it to New York, but those areas were inundated with relief efforts.” Fortunately these concerned residents were given the advice to take action, but to keep their efforts local.
Over the years, LemonAid Stand’s efforts have benefitted dynamic organizations including Hephzibah, Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, West Suburban Special Rec, Shriner’s Hospital, Amity School Children’s Aid, Cluster Tutoring, Holiday Food & Gift Basket, the Children’s Clinic, and Opportunity Knocks.
This year’s recipient of the 10th Annual Kids Helping Kids 9/11 Charity LemonAid Stand is Thrive Counseling Center in Oak Park.
True to its name, kids are actively involved in this annual event - learning the art of giving, caring, and helping. “We wanted this to be fun for the kids yet increase their awareness of kids and families beyond their own. There are people who are less fortunate, who think differently about the world, who need our support,” Henek explains. “The kids really participate in the meetings, the planning. We take them out of their comfort zone and learn some of the different aspects to giving back.”
Luke Olson, a senior a Fenwick High School, is this year's chairperson for LemonAid Stand and has been an active particpant since the first event in 2002. Olson cherishes the connections on his block between the kids and parents, and he is proud to be a part of LemonAid Stand.
“It’s been an amazing experience. I was so blind to what was going on in the world, and by helping kids out who are challenged and suffering has opened my eyes and I’m better for it,” Olson comments. This year Olson is excited to see how his block will do in supporting the needs of Thrive.
Please join Olson and the rest of those hard-working LemonAid Stand volunteers to honor those lost in 9/11 and to support Thrive Counseling Center’s youth services, which include substance abuse prevention in local schools, 24/7 crisis support for youth and youth counseling.
You can drive thru, walk by, or bike to the 700 block of Bonnie Brae Place on Sunday, September 11th between 1 - 5 p.m (between Chicago and Oak).
There will be an opening ceremony to honor the 10th year anniversary of 9/11 as well as thirst-quenching lemonade donated by Whole Foods, baked goods, live entertainment, and for the kids, library time courtesy of River Forest Library, parachute play, custom tattoos, and the COWBELL - to be rung non-stop throughout the afternoon as donations are received!
“There are a lot of people that want to do something for 9/11 and remember that day,” Henek says. Why not remember this day with a special donation to Thrive at the LemonAid Stand?!
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