Annual River Forest fundraiser will give proceeds to two nonprofits for the first time

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By Deborah Kadin

Contributing reporter

Two teens are following in their siblings' footsteps as they co-chair this year's LemonAid — River Forest's annual "social event with a message," on Thursday, Sept. 11.

Does that put a lot of pressure on the pair? "Nothing we can't handle," said Elliot Edmunds, a 17-year-old senior at Fenwick High School whose brother, Riley, co-chaired last year's effort. Christina Strand, whose sister, Madeline, co-chaired the 2013 version, agreed. 

After all, they have plenty of help, for this has become an event so important to the 700 block of Bonnie Brae — and the entire community — that everyone helps out.  

"It's cool to see everyone come together for such a good cause," said Christina Stand, a 15-year-old sophomore at Trinity High School. 

Will this be Lucky 13 for the popular charity? If past efforts are any indication, it probably will. Last year, LemonAid raised $32,000. In a dozen previous efforts, LemonAid has turned the tragedy of 9/11 into a day to give back. So far the "kids helping kids" effort has raised roughly $105,000. 

The event takes place from 3 to 7 p.m., Sept. 11, at the usual spot: the middle of the 700 block of Bonnie Brae. Plenty of food (Burger Boss will bring double the eats) and treats and, of course, plenty of lemonade (last year, crews from Whole Foods had to run back twice to get extra lemonade).

For the first time this year, two organizations will be recipients. One is Parenthesis Family Center. A longstanding Oak Park nonprofit, Parenthesis offers a mix of teen-parent programs and support for new mothers. Once a week, Parenthesis provides a meal so that children and moms can eat together. 

The second organization is Maywood Fine Arts, which offers a range of arts programming from gymnastics and ballet to music lessons. The organization was formed in 1979 by Ernie and Lois Baumann as a way of giving back to their community. No one is turned away, said Patty Henek, one of LemonAid's founders. 

"Maywood is a neighbor. We're reaching out to neighbors and we're showing our kids a community that is quite different from ours," Henek said. "In supporting them, we would be supporting a large number of people." Groups of youngsters will be on hand to show what they can do.

Providing money for two groups was something LemonAid organizers had discussed for the last several years, Henek said. Donations had been growing and could make a pretty big impact on one organization. But because there are so many great groups that need help, they decided to focus on two. Residents of the 700 block of Bonnie Brae selected the groups this spring.

"It was hard to choose; they all have such great programs. There are so many more in need of money, help and support," Christina Strand said.

Co-chairs Christina and Elliot are quite familiar with the draw that LemonAid has on the community. Christina, who has lived on the block her entire life, and Elliot, who moved here four years ago, have volunteered each September, pouring lemonade, putting out treats and other tasks.

This is the first time they have coordinated. It all started with a block meeting in January. Over the ensuing months there were myriad tasks to coordinate — the variety might boggle the mind of the best event planners. 

"We had to make sure everything was set: the merchandise, the lemonade and the vendors. We had to make sure to get all the food donated," Christina said. "I never realized how much it takes to plan this, but it's so worthwhile to do."

The pair also had to focus on organizing volunteers and dealing with the traffic flow. Entertainment is a big thing, Elliot said, as is getting yard signs to people. "I told my friends about the yard signs, and they all wanted one," he said.

With two charities getting funds, the website had to be tweaked to create a drop-down menu that would take folks to the charity sites. LemonAid is not a nonprofit for taxable-donation purposes, so they don't take the donations for the groups outright, Henek said.

And this year people won't have to go to the middle of the block to donate. There will be "satellite donation" spots. One will be at the northwest corner of Oak and Bonnie Brae. The other is a donation lane set up at the southwest corner of Chicago and Bonnie Brae. Volunteers will be taking donations and directing traffic in and out of the area. Donors will get lemonade and treats. Of course, people are welcome to find a place to park and enjoy the happenings along the block, Christina said.

No matter how people get involved, everyone will be coming together as a community. "It's greater than just one person," she said. "We're all doing something good. We can make so much of a difference. And everyone counts."

The theme is kids helping kids. "And this proves how much of a difference one person can make if they put their minds to it," Elliot said. "I'm a part of it. It's a team effort. I'm one individual on the 700 block of Bonnie Brae."

Once the event ends, the night will be a long one, they said. They'll eat pizza, lemons (a tradition Elliot started last year), count the money, "and do a whole lot of cleanup," he said. 

"It'll be a late night to be sure. I'll be doing my homework late at night," Christina said. "But it'll be totally worth it."

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Mike Lennox from Oak Park  

Posted: September 11th, 2014 8:31 AM

What no comments...are we forgetting? "Never Forget" GOD BLESS AMERICA !

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