Since its start 14 years ago as a response to the 9/11 attacks, LemonAid has grown from a small stand in the 700 block of Bonnie Brae Place to a real happening.
That was evident Friday afternoon as dozens flocked to Honorary LemonAid Place for what has become an official end-of-summer charity fundraiser, River Forest-style.
Under threatening skies, in weather more suited to fall than summer, adults and kids hung out with friends and caught up on summer doings. Groups of boys played an impromptu game of catch with a football just a few short steps from the event.
The occasional kid rode a scooter or a skateboard through the street. And of course the requisite pooch was hovering around their owners hoping to pick up a crumb or two.
Music blared, the signature beverage of the event — lemonade — flowed and children and adults munched on popcorn, cookies, brownies and other treats.
One spot that seemed populated more with tween-age boys than girls for some reason was a booth where one could grab a free lemon-flavored snow cone.
Another spot that caught on, this one by the younger set, was the cotton candy stand. It was easy to see who had frequented it by the blue coloring around the mouth.
How is it? “Good,” nodded Tamsen Osga, 5, who couldn’t stop nipping away at the spun sugar treat.
Kids walked away from the lemonade stand with wisps of yellow, blue, green and all sorts of colors in between sprayed on to their hair. Other youngsters walked over to a booth, new this year, where they could doll themselves up in hats or beads or boas, get a snapshot taken by way of an iPad and the lucky recipients can access their photos online.
Working the booth was Lia Flannery, who had been a part of LemonAid since her mom, Millie, and Patty Henek founded the event in 2002. She may have moved to Montclair, New Jersey two years ago, but she still comes back for this.
“I wouldn’t miss it. It’s always fun,” she said.
Millie Flannery said that from a hill in Montclair she can see the Manhattan skyline and has always thought of going into New York City for the 9/11 memorial service, but decides instead that she’ll come back to River Forest for this day.
“It’s just so good that it’s keeps on going. It’s really a miracle,” she said.
Tiny sprinkles of rain came down as Cate Best took photos for LemonAid’s Facebook page. It wasn’t her only task.
“I made about 100 cupcakes last night,” said Best, who’s taken part in the event for eight years and admitted that the best part of that experience was the sensational smell it left in her house.
The day is not just a way to remember the events of Sept. 11. The event started as, and continues to be, a way to raise awareness and funds for local organizations that benefit children.
Folks of all ages dropped bills into plastic containers that dotted tables throughout the block. On the southwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Bonnie Brae, car passengers rolled down the windows and handed off their money to Dave Hamel, who collected donations from the drive-thru lane.
Sometimes drivers held up traffic to drop off their singles or 20s. Hamel handed off in return a packet of lemonade crystals and a two sandwich cookies covered in plastic and finished off in a lemon yellow bow.
“I hope I attract them,” said Hamel, as he took a $20 from the passenger of a 1966 Cadillac convertible. “The peak hours will be from 5 to 7.”
Donations also came in from the Fenwick High School girl’s cross-country team, which for years has made the LemonAid Charity Event a stop for re-hydration and rest.
“It’s something we look forward to,” said Clare Durkin, a senior, and Shannon Donnelly and Marisa Morella, both juniors, almost in unison.
This year’s event benefitted two groups. Janet Holden, a volunteer with one of them, the Metro Suburban affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illinois, was elated at the turnout.
“I’m so amazed and encouraged by the number of people who are here. I hope they don’t ever let this go away,” she said.
Kids are involved in nearly every aspect of the experience, from organizing or passing out treats. Terry Herbstritt, the development director of Parents Allied with Children and Teachers for Tomorrow, the other group that will receive funding, called it an “awesome” event.
“The lessons being learned by young people on the block are priceless. What an example they set for the young kids of this community,” Herbstritt said. “We were honored to be chosen.”