tampabay.com

Group hopes to fund cancer research by the cup

By ARLEEN SPENCELEY
Published May 16, 2007


Stop at Collier Commons this Saturday, and you may spot something different: lots and lots and lots of lemonade.

And Denise Mestanza Taylor said it's going to be "the best lemonade you ever drank." She and other members of a local group called Moms on the Go will set up five stands Saturday morning, handing out cups of lemonade from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside Belk's, Pet City, Shane's Rib Shack and Moe's Southwest Grill. Any donations Moms on the Go collects in exchange for the cold beverages will go to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

"Alex's Lemonade Stand is a charity that brings communities together in a very simple way, " said Julie Ellis, 27, a stay-at-home mom who helped Taylor organize Saturday's event.

Now nationally supported, the foundation got its start in a Connecticut family's front yard in 2000, when 4-year-old Alexandra "Alex" Scott set up a stand. Her goal was to raise money for childhood cancer treatment and research. After the first one, she hosted a series of annual lemonade stands and raised more than $1-million while she battled neuroblastoma, a kind of childhood cancer.

Alex died in 2004, but her parents and brothers poured their hearts into what became known as Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

"I know how devastating that is, to watch somebody you love die of cancer, " said Ellis, whose father died of cancer about six years ago. "As a mother, I could never, ever, ever imagine going through that pain with a child."

When Taylor, 35, heard she could help, she knew she wanted Moms on the Go to host a set of stands for the foundation.

"I read Alex's story on the (www.alexslemonade.org) Web site. It just tears at your heartstrings, " she said. "That alone is motivation enough to want to do this."

Hosting the lemonade stands isn't the group's first charity event. Since Taylor founded the group last June, the 74 moms who are currently members make a monthly effort to donate to various organizations.

The group's other efforts include donating blood, participating in the March of Dimes, sending McDonald's toys to an orphanage in Mexico and sending shoes to natural disaster victims.

Among its recent events, the group collected prom dresses and donated them to Pasco County schools for girls who couldn't afford to buy one.

"Just because we're stay-at-home moms doesn't mean we're sitting at home eating bonbons, " Taylor said. "We want to help our community; we want our children to learn the importance of it."

Faith Christopher, 28, is a stay-at-home mom and member of Moms on the Go; she and her 8-year-old son will help hand out lemonade Saturday.

"I really want to teach him this life lesson, " she said. "He doesn't want to sit outside in the heat all day long and hand out lemonade, but he needs to see that there are other children in the world who (don't) have all these great advantages that he has."

Ellis added that she hopes each of their children takes something special from the group's participation in any event like Alex's Lemonade Stand.

"You set an example to your children when you participate in events outside of yourself, " she said. "We want to teach our kids how to give and how important that is to your world."

Taylor agreed.

"I want my children to recognize how they can impact others by doing good deeds, " she said.

Ellis hopes this weekend's outreach event will raise awareness of children's cancer in the community.

"(We) need to be aware of it because it's out there; it exists, and it's a real problem, " she said.

No one is immune to the effects of childhood cancer, Taylor added.

But Moms on the Go hopes the group's efforts will help change that.

"Every child dreams of owning and operating a lemonade stand, " said Taylor.

And "these children are helpless; if we don't help them, who is going to?" Ellis added. "I have a 3-year-old, and if he got cancer, I couldn't leave it up to him to take care of himself."

That's why Moms on the Go is hosting the stands.

"With this event and with the other outreach events that we have planned, we're hoping to touch the lives of others, " Ellis said. "Our group is going to be there for anybody that needs it."

If you go

Lemonade to flow

Moms on the Go will set up lemonade stands Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside Belk's, Pet City, Shane's Rib Shack and Moe's Southwest Grill at Collier Commons, State Road 54 and Collier Parkway. Donations will go to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises money to fight cancer. For more information, call (813) 838-5737 or visit http://moms.meetup.com/1367.