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LemonAid stand draws 3,000 attendees

Kidz Express nonprofit thrilled with turnout, support

September 12th, 2017 3:49 PM

LemonAided vision: Maddie Cheronis, left, 9, and Sasha Giannotti Guralnick, 9, both of River Forest, get dressed up for the photo booth during the annual 9/11 LemonAid Charity Stand on the 700 block of Bonnie Brae on Monday. | ALEXA ROGALS/Staff Photographer

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By JYLLIAN ROACH

The 700 block of Bonnie Brae was a crowded place, Monday, filled with energetic music, laughing children and, of course, gallons of lemonade.

For the 16th year, residents of the block hosted the annual LemonAid fundraising event on the anniversary of 9/11, with residents of River Forest and surrounding villages stopping by to donate to this year's chosen nonprofit: Kidz Express.

Elizabeth Strand, who has helped to organize LemonAid since its inception, said moms on the block wanted to find a way to contribute on the first anniversary of 9/11. When one of those moms called a foundation in New York, she was told the best thing they could do was give back to their community. When they thought about how to do that, Strand said they realized the answer was right on their front lawns.

"We've had lemonade stands on this block from forever," she said. "The kids were always out doing lemonade stands, making a decent amount of money. So we had lemonade stand."

The first stand in 2002 sat in front of a single home on Bonnie Brae, and raised $400. Since then, it has expanded to the entire block. The event raised $40,000 last year.

Strand said the process for deciding on which charity or charities should receive the funds is community-based and democratic. Each person on the block may nominate a local nonprofit. Each household then votes on the nominees. The top three organizations are invited to give a presentation to the block members, and then a final vote is cast for the top two charities, which split the funds.

Doug Low, executive director of Kidz Express, said he hadn't sought out a nomination from anyone on Bonnie Brae but was thrilled when he was invited to give his presentation. Low said he was shocked when he got word that not only would they receive the money raised from this year's LemonAid stand, but the Austin neighborhood mentoring program would receive all of the funds raised.

"We were the unanimous vote-getter, I think," he said. "I was pretty excited about it."

Low said the money would allow them to expand to serving 100 kids a day, doubling the number of children served now.

There won't be a final count on funds raised for a while because LemonAid will continue to collect donations for Kidz Express for another month. However, Patty Henek, a Bonnie Brae resident and River Forest village trustee, announced at Monday's village board meeting that an estimated 3,000 people attended the four-hour-long event. Those interested in donating to LemonAid can visit 9-11lemonaid.com and click the donate button.

jyllianroach@gmail.com