While all the figures aren't in, it's safe to say that the appeal of the River Forest's 9/11 charity "LemonAid" Stand has shattered all predictions.
Organizers of the popular charity event, held each Sept. 11 on Bonnie Brae, initially figured they'd raise $27,000 this year.
"Even initial counts on that day showed we'd reach that," said Patty Henek, one of the event's coordinators. "What we kept saying was 'wow.'"
But not even organizers could imagine this year's numbers. So far, the LemonAid Stand has raised more than $30,000 – almost double what was brought in just two years ago.
The final count might not be known until well after Oak Leyden Development Services, this year's non-profit recipient, receives a check at its board meeting, scheduled for Sept. 24. "Donations are still coming in," Henek added.
Money from the day will allow Oak Leyden to construct a safe outdoor space that will help make parents of children with disabilities and delays more comfortable taking them to a neighborhood playground.
Not only is the staff at Oak Leyden in awe of the results, but what impressed them the most was the hard work and effort that youth coordinators Madeline Strand and Riley Edmunds put in to make this event a success.
"It was heart-warming to see how well all of the kids worked together," said Rachel Wood, division chief of children's services at Oak Leyden. Her division will be overseeing the play space, which could be started later this fall. "They just have it all together. We're so appreciative for everything they've done. It's just so overwhelming."
Since it began in 2002 in response to the first anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks, LemonAid has now raised more than $100,000, Henek said.
The kid-organized event has been growing steadily in popularity especially over the last six years, she said. Certainly people come after seeing the yellow signs that sprout up around River Forest and now in Oak Park, she said.
More pre-event media coverage this year attracted more people, she said. Henek noted that people who came from surrounding communities saw the stories and decided to see what the event was all about.
But one thing that keeps people coming to the 700 block of Bonnie Brae each year is that LemonAid has become a tradition in River Forest.
And it took a while. When it began the event took in only a few hundred dollars. But now because it is an event that people know and because it has a local focus, Henek said that some people have mentioned to her that LemonAid has become their charity for the year and write bigger checks.
"They appreciate the fact that we are picking local organizations," she said. "And the community gets excited seeing our figures grow."
The purpose of the event – remembering 9/11 – has attracted people from the start. People appreciate that it is a day where they can give back to the community.
But Henek said the group is not resting on its laurels. Organizers already have had a recap meeting and are planning ahead.
They are looking at how they can tap more on a grassroots level, which has helped make the event so successful.
And that planning ahead also means trying guestimate how much stuff to provide. This year the supply of popcorn grew to 40 pounds; the amount of lemonade donated grew to more than 100 gallons.
During the day organizers had to run back to the store to get more lemonade – and more cups. Total amount of cups – more than 3,000, Henek said.
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