Kristi Longley first learned of Alex Scott from a book, one she bought to help her young son understand the disease that claimed his father’s life. Longley had no idea she’d soon take on the same fight the Connecticut 8-year-old had led.
Longley and her son, Connor, will host a lemonade stand next weekend as part of the national Alex’s Lemonade Stand efforts against childhood cancer. Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma before she turned 1, and in her brief life became a driving force in fighting cancer. Her movement has spread across the nation, starting with her own front-yard lemonade stand and now reaching hundreds of such stands in the country each June that raise money for cancer research. This is the 10th year for the effort, and Longley’s second year taking part after having bought “Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand” a few years ago to help her son understand cancer at a child’s level.
“I bought the book because of my husband’s diagnosis; I was buying anything cancer related, especially kids’ books,” Longley said. “It helps my son understand better. He’s getting to the point where he understands what cancer is now and that it’s an illness and that’s what daddy died from.”
Chris Longley was diagnosed with sarcoma at 23, when a tumor was found behind his cheekbone. He died four years later, when Connor was just 3 months old. Kristi Longley began volunteering and donating to cancer research organizations to do her part and help her son understand the importance of fighting back, but took it to the next level last year.
“For the past two years I’ve really been focusing a lot on volunteerism with him, focusing on giving back,” she said. “Last year he understood we were raising money for someone else beside him. Not until this year did he understand his dad died from cancer and the money we raise will go toward research and fighting against it.”
Longley’s stand last year raised more than $1,000, and she hopes to top that this year with at least $2,000. The stands make money through selling lemonade – Longley is making between 15 to 20 gallons – but also through online donations at www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/92949. Friends and family are pitching in, and Longley expects to have the team together at the June 8 stand to draw in customers to the Cameron Wood lemonade sale.
The stand gets a lot of help from the national foundation, Longley said, including a box of materials like a large banner, cups with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand logo, donation receipts and child tattoos. A family friend also will be at the stand to do face painting.
Connor is ready to start selling, his mom said.
“He really just wants to do anything,” she said. “As much as he’s able to grasp what cancer is, he doesn’t like it and he knows that it took his daddy and anything he can do to help it go away, he’s willing to do.”
The sale is June 8, a Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. at 3228 Birnen Drive.