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By Devin Rose
All kids are familiar with lemonade stands, says River Forester Patty Henek. When the one in front of her house on Sept. 11, 2002 made $400, she said she and her neighbors were amazed.
But that stand has grown a lot since neighbors first thought of it as a way to raise money in honor of the 2001 terrorist attack. This year, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, residents in the 700 block of Bonnie Brae are hoping to raise more than $16,000.
"It's been really fun," said Henek's son, Matt, 16. The Oak Park and River Forest High School junior is one of the event chairs this year and has been reaching out to organizations and getting the votes together to determine where this year's money will go. Ever year, the money is donated to a local charity that benefits children. Past recipients have been The Children's Clinic, Thrive and Opportunity Knocks.
Matt Henek, who was in kindergarten on Sept. 11, 2001, said the charities are very appreciative of the donations, "especially if they are smaller." His mom said every household on the block gets one vote for a charity and the one with the most votes this year was Sarah's Inn, an agency focused on domestic violence.
When the kids were younger, parents on the block would help out with the organizing a lot more, Patty Henek said. But many of them have stepped up.
"It feels really good and it feels like we're helping out a lot," her son said. Patty added it's something they've come to look forward to because they've grown up with it. Since they were young, the parents have explained how they wanted to turn the day into something positive for the community.
It has mostly grown by word of mouth, Henek said, and donations from organizations like the River Forest Service Club now come in before and after the day of the event. This year, it will be held on Sept. 11 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the middle of the block. Anyone unable to attend can donate on Sarah's Inn's website. Attendees can give any amount they wish.
Whole Foods Market in River Forest is donating the lemonade, which will be free, and there will be music from local musicians and activities for kids presented by the River Forest Library, Henek said. Organizers also partnered with The Juice Join in River Forest. The café, located inside The Good Earth nursery, will be donating 10 percent of the proceeds from a special drink, Sarah's Smile, on all sales between Aug. 11 and Sept. 11.
Henek said what has turned into a large social event is also for people who want to honor and remember the day. A neighbor of hers came up with the idea to do something to acknowledge it and reached out to groups in New York in 2001. Since they were getting a lot of support, the New Yorkers suggested keeping the fundraising within the community, and LemonAid began.
Patty said $16,000 was last year's total, but organizers are hoping for more.
"We're aiming for 20 (thousand)," Matt said.