Do Good, Feel Good: Out of this World Lemonade

Ah, almost-summer. Time for sunshine, pools opening, long days (and short nights), and of course, LEMONADE. This past weekend my family hosted our third Out of this World Lemonade Stand to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in raising money for pediatric cancer research.

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Despite hosting the same event yearly, each time is unique and incredibly rewarding. This was Little’s first official time “hosting” with his big brother and he took his job as ice scooper very seriously. His little voice rang out “CUSTOMERS!” every time a car slowed or people walked down the block.

We live on a cut-through street (you know, the one where people drive to avoid hitting lights) which really helps generate stand traffic. And, of course, we post signs at both ends of the block.

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We encourage the kids to run the stand as much as possible, with minimal help from us. I do have to say that social media helps a lot with reaching out to friends and family and sharing our donation page; that’s something that neither of them have at this point and won’t for some time! However, they are the ones who are squeezing the lemons, old school style.

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At the end of two days, between online and in person donations, we’ve raised $1,174.53. We set a slightly lofty goal of $2,000 and haven’t hit it… yet. But hey, if you’d like to help us out, please feel free to click the link (the in person donations aren’t yet visible).

While our lemonade stand weekend has passed, the official Alex’s Lemonade Stand “lemonade days” are actually this upcoming weekend! If you search here, you can find upcoming fundraisers in your area. Want to get involved and host a lemonade stand of your own? It’s not too late! Check out the Get Involved page.

Additionally, coming up in September is Alex’s Million Mile RUN.WALK.RIDE! We had an awesome team of 31 people last year and I’m betting that we can TOP THAT in 2014.

Let’s mix, pour, and find a cure one cup at a time!

Junior – a brave, loving and kind man

I meant to write an entirely different post today, then life happened.

On Thursday, a childhood friend died following an 11-month-long courageous and painful battle with gastric cancer. My heart is broken for his family – as he was only 37 years old and the father of three young girls, ages 2, 4 and 7.

I first met Junior in middle school. He whizzed a ball at me in gym class. This is absolutely fitting, as Junior was known for his love of soccer – he played for our high school team and traveling teams around Lancaster.

The last time I saw him, he had convinced me and several others to join him for a midnight swim in the Atlantic Ocean. None of us stopped to think about  sand crabs that emerge when the sun goes to sleep. Ouch!

In the past few days, memories have been flooding to the surface.

Christmas Eve dinner with Barotti family was quite the event. We all gathered around the table to break bread – and felt incredibly luxurious when his mother placed several meaty main dishes on the table. She’s an amazing cook, for the record.

Junior once convinced me it would be great fun to “borrow” my sister’s car and drive around the high school parking lot while waiting for our siblings to emerge. For the record, I had my license and a set of car keys…. and we had been waiting nearly an hour for them. Of course, they walked out the school as I pulled into the parking space. (Sorry Sissy!)

My sister and his brother dated for several years, so we were often thrown together and we’d chat the time away. About what? I have no clue. But those conversations were gold.

His father was from Brazil, where Junior was also born. Mine was from Ecuador, where as I child I had never been. He encouraged me to do so, telling me that our heritage, our family, our roots, were important and to be cherished.

Junior married the love of his life one week after I married mine. We laughed about it, and compared details in planning and shared many “ME TOO’s” – as our wedding receptions were at the same site.

The day I learned his name wasn’t actually Junior was a hoot. I’m named after my father, he said. But your dad’s name is Mario? Your real name is Jose? I questioned. He laughed and shook his head. Right. Jose Mario Barotti, Jr. JUNIOR, silly.

At a time when so many teens are – let’s be realistic here – self-absorbed and difficult, Junior was the opposite. He was kind. He was thoughtful. He was fun-loving. He was genuine.  His older brother Chris was just the same. And as you’d imagine, both brothers grew into incredible men.

I don’t understand why Junior’s time was so short. Why he was only able to know his three daughters briefly and why cancer forced him to leave his incredibly strong and loving wife Alli behind.

Another childhood friend proposed a beautiful, comforting image. Junior, who passed away while in hospice care, with his family by his side, was greeted in heaven by another childhood friend who died in a car accident in 1994, just weeks before Christmas.

The two men – both free of their pain – hugged and were reunited after nearly 20 years apart. And they are now waiting, with open arms and open hearts, for the rest of their loved ones to someday join them.

If you knew Junior, please share a memory of him. (silly or serious) Rest in Peace, my friend.