People of all ages gather on the 700 block of Bonnie Brae for the 12th annual LemonAid fundraiser (ASHLEY LISENBY/digital editor)

You knew you were near the 700 block of Bonnie Brae Wednesday afternoon because of all the folks in yellow T-shirts standing on the corners, directing folks to come and partake.

Each Sept. 11 since 2002, this area becomes one huge block party and social event for River Forest’s extended family, the scene of one of the community’s best-known charities — LemonAid.

And this year’s kid-organized charity effort did not disappoint. Even with threatening skies, streams of youngsters, parents – an occasional dog or two or three – hovered around a huge table to get a cup of lemonade and grab a cookie or a brownie and to help raise thousands for a good, local cause.

People knew where the LemonAid stand was situated – you could see the crowd belly up to the tent and grab the glasses. This year there was an added “signpost.” Patty Henek’s son is a freshman in the OPRF marching band, and as part of the initiation, his house was toilet-papered on Saturday night.

Most of it had been removed, saved for big streamers hanging from a big tree in front of the house. “They did a pretty thorough job,” she said. “It adds to the décor.”

Most were just there to grab a snack. Ten-year-old Nathan Krippner and his younger brother Owen did just that and headed home. For them the LemonAid Stand was also a place to hang out with friends.

Nathan said it was pretty cool that kids got a chance to do their part.

“It’s nice that they do all this. River Forest isn’t that big, but this sure brings in a lot of people,” he said.

Kelly Richard, who brought her three sons to partake in the festivities, had to park a couple of blocks away, but it was absolutely worth it.

“We’re here to support the kids,” Richard said. “This is a great idea.”

On the other side of a table, set up underneath a big tent, kids were handing out cookies; others were pouring the lemonade. Davis Birmingham, who had been involved in this for a couple of years, marveled at how the effort had grown.

“It’s really cool. The more people hear about it, they tell their friends, and then they all come out.”

Each and every time a check or dollar bills got dropped into a glass jar, a cowbell clanged. The hope was that there’d be a whole lot of noise so that this year’s charity – Oak-Leyden Developmental Services – could raise some funds to build a playground for its clients.

The agency’s board president, Tony Grant, was thrilled to be there and see all the people. “It’s wonderful to be a part of the Oak Park-River Forest community,” said Grant, whose group aids children and adults with developmental disabilities. “This is great exposure for us and what we do.”

North of the LemonAid stand kids were getting their hair spray painted – some came out with pink, others with green and yellow.

Will Hoey got his painted red, white and blue as a tribute to 9-11. The LemonAid Stand began in 2002, a year after terrorist attacks in the U.S., to celebrate the importance of giving back. That event was definitely on his mind, he said.

“This is all about kids helping kids,” he said. “It’s a good place to meet up with friends.”

The LemonAid Stand also became a re-hydration stop for the Fenwick girl’s cross-country team, as about 30 of them, on a shortened run, stopped by, grabbed a glass, took a breather and ran back to school.

Mary Cate Connelly, a senior, said the coach collected donations for the cause. One of the two team coaches, Kevin Roche, said “it was great that this came out of such a tragic event.”

Kids are involved in nearly every aspect of the event. Two teens – Madeline Strand and Riley Edmunds – organized this year’s effort.

Strand was thrilled at seeing the crowds, but she also was a bit sad.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself after this,” said Strand, who’d been working on it for a few months. “I just hope the rain holds off so more people can come out.”

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