On the cusp of another holiday — bracing for the fireworks of July 4 — my mind goes back just a few weeks to the last official holiday, Memorial Day.
It was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, May 29, when I was witness to an unusual but exciting phenomenon. Young cancer survivor Alivia ‘Liv’ Antinetti and her brothers, Carlo and Dominic, hosted a neighborhood lemonade stand with a single goal in mind: to raise $5,000 so another child dealing with a life-threatening illness could have a wish granted through the Make a Wish Foundation.
Liv and her family were the recipients of such a wish — enjoying a magical trip to Disney World after she completed her cancer treatment — and the elementary school student was so overwhelmed by the experience that she wanted somebody else to have the same opportunity.
What had been an idea a couple of years ago to host a lemonade stand with her brothers just for fun instead became a mission … and the community responded.
Bureaucracy tried to get in the way, of course — in the form of permits and fees and inspections — but utilizing a private kitchen and offering cups of lemonade for ‘donation’ rather than for ‘sale’ loosened some of the restrictions. And thankfully, the Lemonade Police minded their own business that weekend and let a little girl’s dream soar higher than anyone believed possible.
Co-worker Teresa Hammond did a feature story prior to the event and, through the use of Facebook, Internet and lots of people twittering and tweeting about it, to say the Liv, Bros. & Co. lemonade stand was a success would be a huge understatement.
I decided to stop by around midday that Sunday to give a donation for a couple of cups of lemonade and could not believe what I saw. With the little makeshift stand set up near the corner of River Avenue and Gina Way —but far enough back to comply with the permitting process — there was a line down the sidewalk for lemonade. And the savvy businesspeople in charge also roped and coned off a drive-thru area for lemonade drinkers on the go.
People brought checks, they dropped off cash, kids cleaned out their piggy banks, firefighters brought donations and offered tours of the fire trucks. Families made this a fun outing to the adjacent River Avenue Park and the place was hopping. Little Liv was the celebrity of the day, working the crowd, running off occasionally to play on the playground equipment, coming back to the stand to thank people for their donations.
A $5,000 goal turned in to a more than $13,000 total in lemonade sales and general donations. More than enough to grant a child facing a grave illness a wish. Liv and her brothers also raised plenty to donate to their secondary recipient, the Children’s Oncology Group, which studies the Wilms Tumor, the type of cancer Liv battled.
There’s still time to donate on line by visiting the Liv, Bros. & Co. website as they continue the fundraising that started with life handing Liv a lemon.
The spirit of giving is alive and well in Oakdale – and residing in the grateful and generous heart of a seven-year-old girl whose smile lights up the world better than any fireworks display.