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Alex's Lemonade Stand visits Murray to raise funds for childhood cancer research

Published August 2, 2012 2:17 pm

Toys "R" Us • Children's store teams up to raise money, awareness to combat disease.
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For the second year in a row, Toys "R" Us teamed up with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation to fight pediatric cancer. The Toys "R" Us store in Murray was one of 39 stores nationwide to host a lemonade stand to spread awareness and raise money.

"It was so very refreshing to work with the foundation that was so focused on kids helping kids," said James Cook, store manager at the Murray location, 5968 S. State St.

Kerry Smith, public-relations coordinator for Toys "R" Us, said the effort raised $1.5 million in 2011.

"Last year was the first year that we partnered with ALSF," Smith said. "We were so excited to once again join the fight."

The summer fundraiser was an eight-week campaign that ran through June and July. The in-store lemonade stand took place June 21-22. Volunteers hosted the stand and offered lemonade along with information to customers. Those interested could donate at the cash registers.

"We're one of only a handful of stores in the company that is able to have representatives come to the store and do a lemonade stand," Cook said. "The partnership of Toys 'R' Us and Alex's Lemonade Stand has been amazing."

All the money raised goes to the foundation to fund research grants for doctors and scientists and develop resources for those affected by childhood cancer. The donation will also contribute to a travel fund that helps families cover travel costs to treatment facilities.

Cook said the response from the customers has been great.

"I'm always amazed at the amount of heartfelt donations that have been made," he said.

The foundation was created by Alexandra Scott, who was diagnosed with a pediatric cancer known as neuroblastoma in 1996 when she was still an infant. At age 4, Alex told her parents she wanted to host a lemonade stand to raise money to help children with cancer. She died in 2004, and the foundation has been dedicated to finding cures and providing support ever since.

"It's a really amazing story of when life throws a lemon at you, you make lemonade," Cook said.

Along with the in-store effort, Toys "R" Us featured an online campaign.

"We really strive to engage the online world," Smith said. "We developed an interactive micro site, where people could make donations, find out more about the organization and see the children and family members affected by childhood cancer."

Toys "R" Us also used its Facebook page to promote the foundation and feature some of its heroes.

"We shine spotlights on ALSF heroes, such as Riley from Bowling Green, Ky., who lost two younger brothers to cancer," Smith said. "She began organizing ALSF grandstands and has raised $140,000."

The company also used Twitter to post lemonade recipes and share photos of stands hosted in stores across the country.

"We have received a tremendous outpouring of support and enthusiasm not just from our customers, but employees who have been impacted by childhood cancer," Smith said.

Kim Cummings was one of two volunteers who represented the foundation at Murray's in-store stand.

"Nothing feels better than helping little kids," Cummings said.

She said she was looking for a way to get involved and give back to the community. She jumped online and researched ways to help when she came across the foundation.

"The event spoke to me because there's nothing more vulnerable than a sick child," she said.

Aside from feeling good about offering her service, Cummings said she was excited to see kids wanting to help other kids.

"The kids really liked the lemonade, and they wanted to know what is this for, and how could they get more information," Cummings said.

According to Gillian Kocher, a public-relations specialist for the foundation, money raised from last year's Toys "R" Us fundraiser contributed to a new initiative of the foundation's Bridge Grants. These donations provide grants to researchers in the process of reapplying for funding from the National Institutes of Health. That way, they can continue to work on their projects.

The foundation also recently awarded grants to two Huntsman Cancer Institute researchers. Joshua Schiffman received $200,000 to examine general pediatric cancers, and Lisa Cannon-Albright received $100,000 to research Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer of the bone and soft tissue commonly found in childhood and early adulthood.

Kocher said the foundation is pleased to have the support from Toys "R" Us and hopes to continues the partnership in the future.

"It's made a very big difference in propelling us in a positive direction and helping us to achieve our mission, which is to find all cures for kids with cancer," Kocher said.


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Alex's Lemonade Stand

Since 2005, the foundation has raised more than $55 million.

The foundation funds more than 250 research projects nationwide.

About $2,640 was collected for the foundation from the Murray's Toys "R" Us store lemonade stand in 2011.