A lemonade stand is a time-honored tradition for budding entrepreneurs looking to make a few extra dollars.
But for 8-year-old Brunswick Acres Elementary School student Jillian Knehr, a lemonade stand was a tool to lend a helping hand to the youngest victims of a deadly disease. Last month, Jillian ventured to Reichler Park during a softball tournament and spent the day selling refreshments at "Jillian's Jerseylicious Lemonade" to raise money for "Alex's Lemonade Stand," a charity that funds research and makes new treatments available to children with cancer.
The charity was founded in honor of cancer victim Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who at the age of 4-years-old set up a lemonade stand to give money to doctors searching for a cure for the disease. Alex was able to raise thousands of dollars before her death at the age of just 8-years-old.
"About a year ago Jillian read the story of 'Alex's Lemonade Stand' and how this girl had cancer, so she decided she wanted to do a stand too so she could help," said Jillian's mother Jody Knehr. "She said 'mom this little girl died when she was 8 and that's my age.' It just really touched her heart."
After her parents bought her a lemonade stand for her birthday, Jillian had a couple of practice runs playing in her backyard getting ready to put on her best sales pitch for real paying customers. After deciding on a date for the fundraiser, Jillian ventured to Reichler Park during a six-team softball tournament in which her older sister Samantha was participating to do her part in the fight against cancer.
Selling cups of lemonade for .50 cents a cup, in about four hours Jillian was able to raise $115 for "Alex's Lemonade Stand," approaching her goal of a $250 donation to the charity.
"All the teams were very receptive and excited when they found out what she was doing," Jody said. "At the end we had one team tell her not to pack up because they were coming back to buy some lemonade. We didn't think we'd raise that much money with six teams, but they were very receptive and it was good because things didn't get too crazy for Jillian."
South Brunswick is unfortunately a town all too familiar with the fact that cancer does not spare even the youngest of victims. after a long fight with the disease. Kendall Park infant Brady Wells died in 2010 at the age of 23 months following a difficult battle with pediatric leukemia.
After Brady's death, his parents Mike and Sherrie Wells started the Hugs for Brady Foundation with the goal of helping the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital fight pediatric cancer.
Following in the footsteps of those who came before her and decided to help children fighting for their lives against a heinous disease, Jillian demonstrated even the youngest child can help make a difference. After seeing what a kid can do when empowered to help others in need, Jillian plans on holding other fundraisers in the future for kids battling cancer.
"We're very proud of her," Jody said. "She's a determined little girl and once she puts her mind to something then that's what she does. It took a lot for us to coordinate everything, but she wanted to do it, so she stuck with it and made it happen."
Click here to help Jillian reach her goal of a $250 donation to "Alex's Lemonade Stand."
Follow Patch on Facebook.