While it has become an American tradition for children run a lemonade stand during the dog days of summer, it is not as common that they spend their earnings on something like cancer research.
Since mid-June, 9-year-old Evan Axelson and his 6-year-old brother, Sam, have spent several days selling lemonade outside of their grandmother’s Riverside home with the goal of donating all proceeds to cancer research.
Evan’s charity efforts first began last summer when he sold $14 worth of stuffed animals at his mom’s garage sale and donated the money to The H Foundation, a LaGrange non-profit cancer research fundraiser charity. The boys’ mom, Trish Boenzi-Axelson, had volunteered for the organization in the past.
Since 2001, The H Foundation has raised nearly $6.5 million, with all proceeds benefitting cancer research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.
After his grandfather, Pat Boenzi, passed away from cancer, Evan wanted to do something to help prevent others from losing family members to the disease.
“My papa died from cancer and I want to help find a cure for the people who do have cancer,” Evan said.
While Evan was happy to donate the $14 to the organization last year, this year he wanted to do something bigger and better.
After Evan told his mother that he planned on having a lemonade stand fundraiser, she suggested he keep half of whatever money he earned and donate the rest. However, Evan told her it was his plan to donate every penny.
Initially, Evan set his fundraising goal at $15 to beat his amount donated last year.
“I was excited for them and hoped they would make the $15 they wanted to make,” Boenzi-Axelson said.
After setting up shop in front of the home of their grandmother, Kathy Boenzi, on East Burlington Street, the boys raised more than $1,000 in the first weekend alone.
While Evan and Sam set their price at 50 cents a cup, many people gave them money without taking lemonade and even donated $10 and $20 bills. One local customer whose 6-month-old son is battling cancer donated $100 to the boys.
Kathy Boenzi, who is also the mother of North Riverside Police Sgt. Christopher Boenzi, said she was pleased to hear that news of the stand spread like wildfire through word of mouth and Facebook, and got locals coming out to support a good cause.
“Evan said he felt everybody should be involved, young or old,” Boenzi said.
And after producers from WGN-TV caught wind of the fundraiser and came out to interview them for the evening news, Boenzi said even more people came out of their way to donate to the boys.
“It’s just been unbelievable,” she said. “It’s good experience for them and I’m really proud of them.”
When the boys are not spending the day at their grandmother’s Riverside home fundraising, they have been selling lemonade in both Downers Grove and near relatives out in Naperville.
Evan’s goal is to raise as much money as he can before The H Foundation’s 16th Annual Goombay Bash fundraiser at Navy Pier on July 16.
As of June 24, Evan had raised more than $2,100.
“I am so proud of them I can’t even tell you,” Boenzi-Axelson said. “He wants to keep doing it. I’m not telling him to [keep doing] it, but he’s picking the dates and we do the dates he wants to do.”
Evan hopes that his efforts have been a good way to get people involved in cancer research if they weren’t before.
“I want to help find a cure and no other [organization does] this much for cancer,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people that are happy to donate. People say the lemonade is really good, and they want to learn more about the foundation.”
Additionally, because of the boys’ success, The H Foundation has started “Lemonade for Cancer,” a campaign to encourage other local children to set up a stand just like Evan and Sam.
For more information on how to donate or set up a lemonade stand, visit www.lemonadeforcancer.org.