The Best Philadelphians 2005
Liz and Jay Scott needed to raise $5 million. They didn't have to do
it. And no one would have blamed them if they decided not to.
Last August, after watching their daughter Alex fight cancer for all
eight years of her life, after stem cell transplants and chemotherapy
and radiation, after blood transfusions at CHOP sometimes three times a
week and tests nearly every day, Liz and Jay held their daughter's
hands as she died.
People said that Alex Scott had lost her battle with cancer.
“We believe that this couldn't be further from the truth,” Liz said
from the pulpit at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, struggling
to hold her voice steady as she gave the eulogy at her child's funeral.
“Alex won her battle in so many ways … by never giving up hope, by
living life to the fullest, and by leaving an incredible legacy of hope
and inspiration for all of us.”
That legacy was something so simple, so childlike, it almost seemed
foolish: a lemonade stand. In fact, when four-year-old Alex first told
her parents she wanted to sell lemonade to raise money for her
hospital, Liz thought, “Isn't that cute?” Then she called her sister,
her neighbors, even Alex's doctor, and begged them to please drop by
Alex's lemonade stand on Saturday, just to make sure she'd have a few
customers. Liz told the doctor, “You're going to get a check for, like,
$10.” The morning of the stand — thanks to a little article in the
local paper — the Scotts' street was lined with cars. Alex manned the
stand in the front yard. Jay ran back and forth to the kitchen, making
pitcher after pitcher of Country Time. And Alex didn't give her doctor
a check for $10. She gave him a check for $2,000.
Liz and Jay thought it was a one-time thing.
By the summer of 2004, after four years of lemonade stands, Alex
Scott had raised $900,000 for childhood cancer, and had plans to tally
a total of $1 million that year. She, along with her parents and three
brothers, had been on Oprah , the Early Show , MSNBC, the Today Show . Volvo created the “Alexandra Scott Butterfly Award” to recognize child heroes. Good Housekeeping
gave Alex its Heroes for Health award. Billy King took Alex and her
cause under his wing, and the Sixers honored her as a Hometown Hero.
Super Fresh, Whole Foods, Coca-Cola, Country Time, Sunkist, and Caesars
Palace in Las Vegas had all contributed to the fund, which Jay managed
every night after he came home from his job at a publishing company
selling medical books, while Liz answered e-mails (often hundreds a
day) and put together lemonade stand start-up kits to send to people
who wanted to hold their own fund-raisers to contribute to Alex's
cause. And that year, people were holding them everywhere. There were
the fifth-graders in Upper Merion, the little girl in Avalon, the
students at Goodnoe Elementary in Newtown. There was at least one stand
in each of the 50 states, and a few in other countries.
Yet even as the phenomenon of the stand expanded, Alex's health was
deteriorating. She was so ill the morning of the stand on June 12th,
2004, that no one was sure she'd be able to attend. But she did,
wearing her bright yellow sun hat as her mom pushed her wheelchair into
the gym at Penn Wynne Elementary, the new location for Alex's Original
Stand since it had outgrown the Scotts' front yard. Hundreds of people
were waiting. When Alex arrived, everyone in the neighborhood could
hear the cheers. Alex had already set her goal for 2005 — $5 million.
But on August 1st, she died.
It would have been so logical, so reasonable, for the lemonade stand
to pass away with the girl who'd founded it. Liz and Jay had three
other children to care for. And there was so much grief. They could
have said, We're not going to do this anymore . But they
remembered what Alex had once told them: “You should never give up.
It's never good to give up.” And they decided not to give up. Not on
the lemonade stand. Not on Alex. Because the lemonade stand was Alex. As long as it lived on, so would she.
The Scotts knew it would be a daunting job. First, they had to meet
the 2004 goal, which they blew away, raising a total of $1.4 million.
But then there was the $5 million for 2005. That was huge. There was no
way they could raise that much by running the stand out of their
kitchen, especially now that they'd decided to take the reins from the
Philadelphia Foundation, which had been managing the donations, and
create their own nonprofit. That meant electing a board of trustees and
keeping the books and finding sponsors and even answering the phones.
How would they handle that and respond to e-mails and speak at schools and go to lemonade stands and
help the boys with their homework? So Jay did the only thing he could
to keep his daughter's dream alive — he quit his job, taking a big
paycut to become the only full-time employee of Alex's Lemonade Stand.
And Liz joined him, letting go of 10 years as a stay-at-home mom to
work part-time in the office space they rented in Ardmore, with
lemon-yellow walls they painted themselves.
They didn't waste any time getting the word out: The stand was still
on. Country Time created 500,000 special Alex's Lemonade cans to sell
in stores around the country. The owners of Thoroughbred Afleet Alex
donated some of his winnings. Kenny Gamble wrote an Alex's Lemonade
Stand theme song. But Liz and Jay knew that to meet the 2005 goal, they
had to follow the simple plan Alex laid out years before: “I think we
can do it if everyone has lemonade stands and sends their money in.”
Liz and Jay needed help. They needed people to have their own stands.
Lots of stands. Five thousand by the end of this year. And at least
1,000 on the official Alex's Lemonade Stand weekend, June 10th through
There were about 1,100 Alex's Lemonade Stands that weekend. At
grocery stores. At restaurants. At car dealerships. At Relief Fire
Company Number 3 in Burlington, New Jersey. At Ray's Pizza in Lansdale.
At Joan Shepp in Center City. In front yards in Wayne, in Malvern, in
Flourtown. In Long Beach, California, and Eagle River, Alaska. In
Deltona, Florida. Coal Valley, Illinois. Plano, Texas. Shorewood,
Minnesota. Scarsdale, New York. And, of course, there was Alex's
Original Lemonade Stand, at Penn Wynne School. That's where Liz and Jay
spent the day. “Without Alex there,” Jay says. “It was tough.”
So far this year, Liz and Jay have raised almost $1 million.
“Some days I feel like, 'Five million, that's so much. How are we
ever going to do that?” Liz says. “Most days, I feel like, How could we
To make a contribution to Alex's Lemonade Stand, go to alexslemonade.com.