The final echoes of the much-anticipated last bell of the school day had long since vacated the hallways of Manchester High School in Manchester, Connecticut on a beautiful May day, yet a group of students remained.
With sandpaper in hand, members of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Leadership Groups carefully smoothed out edges of wooden letters that their classmates had cut. In another corner of Mike Bergeron’s woodshop, the hum of power sanders grinding against the frame of a wooden stand provided the soundtrack for the afternoon.
After careful inspection of their sanding work and a few puffs of air to blow off the dust, the students placed their letters on a thick wooden table. The freshly sanded letters lay strewn on the table, resembling a wooden alphabet soup. An L here, a M over there and an A over there – individual pieces that would soon become something bigger.
A second group of students began gathering the letters and placing them on the top board. The jumbled letters that the students had worked so tirelessly and selflessly on were coming together to form the title of the stand.
Individual pieces – individual students – who together created an amazing lemonade stand to help raise money for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.
A little bit of blue and yellow paint, a few finishing touches and the stand was ready for business!
Alexandra “Alex” Scott, the founder of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation was born at Manchester Memorial Hospital in Manchester, CT on January 18, 1996. Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer, just two days before her first birthday. She had surgery on her first birthday to remove a large tumor. Doctors told the family that if she survived, she would never walk because when the tumor was removed it comprised her blood supply and her spinal cord was damaged.
She defied the doctor’s initial prognosis and worked tirelessly to learn to walk and in doing so, displayed her fighting spirit that lives on today.
When Alex was just four-years-old she opened her first lemonade stand outside of the family’s home in West Hartford, CT. She raised over $2,000 that first day. Alex continued to run lemonade stands every year until she passed away in 2004. At the time of her death, Alex had raised $1 million dollars and had inspired a nation to raise money to help fight childhood cancer.
The work of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation continues today with over $150 million dollars raised since Alex opened her first stand.
“We’re super excited to have a new partner,” said Liz Scott, Alex’s mother. “I’ve been wanting to partner with Bob’s so this is very dear to my heart, being from this area.”
The students set up the stand during the lunch waves on June 8th in the cafeteria of MHS to help raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. With music pumping out of a PA system, the students celebrated their project, handed out cups of lemonade and rallied together to support a great cause. They raised $414.77 in just a few short hours and gave the project a great start!
But that was just the beginning.
A few weeks later – and a day after school was officially out for the summer – a group of students from the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Leadership Groups, their advisors and Bergeron hopped onto a yellow school bus for one final time this year and headed over to Bob’s Discount Furniture for the public unveiling.
Surrounded by town officials, representatives from Manchester Public Schools and executives from Bob’s Discount Furniture, the stand was officially unveiled and declared open for business on June 27.
The lemonade stand will be open every Sunday in July from 10am-4pm in front of our Manchester, CT store and will be staffed by the members of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Leadership Groups. The opening of the stand runs in conjunction with our chain-wide third quarter (July – September) Café Collections for a Cause program. Every quarter we collect all of the money donated at each one of our 99 stores across the country, match that amount to the penny and present one final check to a hand-selected non-profit organization. For the first time ever, Bob’s is working with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
“We’re happy to partner with Manchester High School who did a terrific job in terms of building this stand,” said Mike Skirvin, president and CEO of Bob’s Discount Furniture. “We’re thrilled to support the cause and look forward to working with the community by donating and matching all of the donations that come through the lemonade stand for the quarter. I can’t think of a better cause to support.”
There’s a stark difference between what students can learn sitting in a lecture or reading from a text book compared to what students can learn from being actively involved in a project with real-world implications. As soon as officials at MHS were first approached by Bob’s about a potential partnership to build a lemonade stand, they jumped at the opportunity.
“Our work at Manchester High School is very much these days about connecting students to all of the learning that happens outside of the four walls of our building,” said Mark Ruede, assistant principal. “So, this partnership and this opportunity that [Bob’s] presented to us was a no-brainer that we needed to get involved with and it provides the opportunity for kids to learn the kinds of skills we want them to have that they’re going to need to be successful outside of the world of our four walls when they’re done.”
And it’s an opportunity that students and Bergeron’s woodshop class and the members of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Leadership Groups fully embraced.
Xavier Pica, a junior at MHS, volunteered his time to hand out lemonade and collect donations at MHS and will also help staff the stand at Bob’s.
“I learned a lot,” said Pica. “Not to think about yourself, to worry about others and think about people around you and their situations because this is childhood cancer research; this affects a lot of kids.”
Jennifer Vignone is the co-advisor of the Young Women’s Leadership Group and teaches literature and the humanities at MHS and said this project helps reinforce the messages that she highlights in the classroom.
“This really puts into practical application a lot of the empathy that we try to teach,” said Vignone. “They hopefully may never experience knowing someone with cancer or childhood cancer, but just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean you can’t feel for someone else and I think that’s the core of what we teach in the classroom, now very much applied in the real world.”