Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alex's Lemonade Stand

Alexandra Scott was probably the youngest founder of a charity fund in history.

On her first birthday, Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that occurs in young children or infants. It is not well understood form of malignancy and a rather rare one – about 600 registered cases a year in the United States – and it manifests itself in various ways. A chest tumor causes breathing problems, an abdominal one leads to digestion problems, and a spinal cord formation robs the child of his ability to walk. Alex's parents were told that even if she beat the beast, she probably would never be able to use her legs. 

Two weeks later, Alex proved them wrong when she started moving her legs and kicking. By her second birthday, she was crawling and able to stand up with leg braces. She underwent treatments and appeared to be winning her battle, but the tumors started growing again. As her fourth birthday’s present, she received a stem cell transplant and decided to raise money so “the doctors could help other kids” as they’d helped her. She told her mother of her idea and founded Alex’s Lemonade Stand. When she was out of the hospital, she set up her stand on her front yard and began raising money for cancer research. Her older brother helped out, and the news about the incredible sick girl so committed to helping others spread quickly. Over the next four years, Alex raised more than $1 million to finding the cure for her disease. Unfortunately, she did not live to see that moment – she died shortly after she turned eight.

Her foundation, however, continues to exist, helping children fight cancer. Her front yard idea inspired a national movement, a phenomena that to date has raised more than $30 million dollars, not only for research but also as emergency cash for families who need funds to travel. Given the not-so-well-known fact that childhood cancer is the number one killer of children in the United States, it is one of the best causes we can donate to. Alex’s Lemonade Stand is an official charity foundation that operates under the belief that every person – big, small, ill, or healthy – can make the difference.

I was luckier than Alex. When I was 12, I was struck with a rare disease that was slowly taking away my ability to walk. I lay in bed for three years and read books.  Similarly to Alex, on my fifteenth birthday I received my own unique present – a spine surgery that gave me back my legs.  But, unlike her, my method of fighting my infirmity was to withdraw, to go inward, to escape into a fictional world. Perhaps, it was because I lived in a different society and at a different time. Still, I didn’t have the emotional strength to come forward and convince people to join the cause. That’s why there is no Lina’s Lemonade Stand or any other Lina’s charity fund for that matter.

But there is Alex’s.  
Got a quarter? 


  1. Every day, I learn something new about you, Lina. I'm so glad you're well, and I'm also glad you're thinking about those working on getting there. Alex leaves us a great legacy--thanks for sharing her story.

  2. What a touching story, Lina. It's amazing the resilience some people have in the face of adversity. I'm so glad you recovered from your illness. I wonder, though, if you hadn't had those three difficult years where you were confined to bed, would you have become the writer you are today?

  3. Lina, thank you for such a wonderful post. What an amazing little girl Alex was, and what a legacy she's left behind. And Lina, you are full of surprises! I have the same question as Heidi about whether you think your illness ended up influencing your career choice.