by By Ashley Mikenas, Elementary School Counselor, Kewanee CUSD #229

News from the Field: Belle Brainiacs Learn Life Lessons Through Lemonade Stand

This summer, the Belle Brainiacs, a K-1 site of the Henry Bureau Stark Regional Office of Education 21st CCLC, planned and hosted a lemonade stand to raise money for pediatric cancer research. The fundraiser was in memory of Ty Sanford, a student at Belle Alexander who died of brain cancer when he was 5 years old. 

We got the idea from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds for childhood cancer research. The foundation is named for the late Alexandra "Alex" Scott, who started a lemonade stand to help children with cancer like herself. The website and the foundation were an important resource during the project. After we registered to hold a lemonade stand event, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation paired us with staff who provided support and answered questions. The foundation also provided a lemonade stand kit, which included pamphlets, posters, and a children’s book to help teach students about the foundation, how it began, and where the proceeds go. Alex’s Lemonade Stand was a great help! The foundation’s materials and the project taught students about empathy as they were able to identify with the feelings of others, specifically those of Ty and Alex’s family and friends. 

Belle Lemonade Stand

Two Belle Brainiacs are ready to take orders at the lemonade stand.

The lemonade stand served as a theme for many of the academic lessons during our summer program. The students worked in small groups with afterschool staff to create the signs for the lemonade stands. They learned the importance of having signs that were legible and visible to all customers and then used fine-motor skills to help create the visually appealing signage. In the area of customer service, students learned appropriate communication skills when working with customers: make eye contact, speak clearly and in an appropriate tone, use manners by saying “please” and “thank you,” and initiate the conversation with a customer by asking “How may I help you?” We incorporated math skills into the project by teaching students how to make change for customers and to think of change in terms of fractions of a dollar. In the area of science, we discussed hygiene and the importance of having a clean, neat lemonade stand: making sure spills were cleaned up, hands were washed, and that they were handling food appropriately-no fingers allowed in the customer’s cup! 

  X-Belle Lemonade Stand

Mayor Steve Looney was one of the many Kewanee community members who visited the lemonade stand.

During the first week of our 4-week summer program, we primarily worked on advertising and social skills. We held our lemonade stand on each Friday of the following three weeks. The lemonade stand operations included three stations: advertising, where students and staff held their signs and directed customers to our stand; cash register, which involved working the register to take customers’ orders and money and give correct change; and the kitchen, where students and staff made sure the lemonade was made, cups were filled, and the station was clean and neat. Every student worked at each station during our different lemonade stand events. Teamwork was a huge part of this. Although students worked in small groups, they learned that everyone had a role and had to do his or her part in order for the project to be successful.

Our lemonade stand also got a great deal of support from the community. Kewanee mayor Steve Looney (pictured to the right) and members of the Kewanee Fire Department bought lemonade. Local businesses bought lemonade for staff and patrons, while others made donations. The Kewanee Chamber of Commerce also supplied us with a large canopy to use for shade and shelter during our event.

Belle Lemonade stand    

Belle Brainiacs pose with the Walmart Heart Foundation featuring Ty Sanford's picture.


In addition to local community support, the Walmart Heart Foundation invited us to participate in the dedication of the Walmart Heart Semi Trailer ceremony. The foundation had helped Ty with his bucket list last summer by making him an honorary truck driver. This year they put Ty’s picture on the side of their official trailer, along with others the foundation has helped. The students used their communication skills to speak publicly about the lemonade stand and how much was raised in Ty’s memory. We had originally planned to bus all of our students out to the ceremony for the dedication, but due to weather conditions we were not able to do so. Walmart Heart volunteered to bring the semi to the school so that the students could see it after the ceremony. This allowed the students to get a closer look at the semi and learn more about the Walmart Heart Foundation. It is also another example of how the community worked together to overcome a setback (weather). 

This project highlights the strengths of the 21st CCLC program, giving students opportunities to learn outside of the classroom and beyond the school day. This project helped students work together with their peers and teachers as a unified team. This hands-on activity gave teachers and staff the opportunity to build more bonds with students, in turn motivating them to succeed.

The lemonade stand was a huge success in several ways. We exceeded our fundraising goal of $200 to raise $1,100 for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Students saw real-life applications of academic skills, and the project strengthened ties with the community. The students took great pride in their jobs and many were complimented on their efforts! Seeing them light up when a community member would speak kindly about them was such an inspiration. The hard work and generosity of our students, staff, and community members show that Kewanee is truly a small town with a big heart.