On Sunday Aug. 29, young Alberta entrepreneurs served up cool glasses of lemonade for a good cause, raising funds for the Stollery Children's Hospital.
For Kisti-Lee German and her family, the day was personal.
After spending months in this hospital with her micro-preemie, German found out about Lemonade Stand Day and knew she had to give back to hospital that supported her family for months during the toughest days of their lives.
“We owe the Stollery so much,” German said through tears.
“They’re such amazing people. We will do everything and anything we can to help other families that will be there.”
German’s daughters six-year-old Kaydia-lee, three-year-old Beck-lyn, and now-seven-month-old Nayvi-raine, raised more than $1,000 dollars for the hospital after the youngest was born at 26 weeks old and spent 84 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, which is run by the Stollery.
The family had just moved to St. Albert from Medicine Hat on Dec. 28 and by Jan. 4 German’s water broke when her baby was only 22 weeks and four days old. The mom was rushed to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, a hospital she had never heard of before, in a city she wasn’t familiar with, having to leave her two oldest kiddos behind with their dad.
What followed was weeks of fear, uncertainty, and anguish as German stayed on bed rest at the hospital, trying to extend her pregnancy for as long as possible to keep her youngest daughter safe, all the while already grieving a child whom she wasn’t sure would survive.
At 26 weeks, young Nayvi-raine couldn’t wait any longer and charged into the world at a tiny one pound and 11 ounces — small enough to fit inside a Ziploc sandwich bag.
“The whole time she was in the NICU I had it in my mind that she was never going to come home just because I didn't want to get my hopes up,” German said.
Through those agonizing weeks German said the staff at the Stollery were amazing and the nurses were so supportive.
Now, at seven months old, young Nayvi-raine still has some complications from entering the world so early, and the family is still making weekly visits to the Stollery to try to untangle some of the complex challenges she is facing.
When German, who had no experience with the Stollery before this year, found out about Lemonade Stand Day, she knew she had to participate. For the family who had been so overwhelmed with medical challenges, it was one of the first opportunities they had to connect with their new community.
The oldest daughters went through their neighbourhood handing out invitations to the neighbours for their lemonade stand and on the day of the event, the family finally got to know their new community.
“We don’t get out much. We have met a lot of people now, which is nice,” German said.
“We have met a lot of kids on our street that we didn't even know were around.”
While many families who take part in Lemonade Stand Day have a deep connection to the Stollery, there are others, such as Rhonda Kelloway, who just love to volunteer in the community.
The local baker participated in the event for the second year in a row with her three grandkids — Lily, 4; Milan, 21 months; and Summer, 11 months — hoping to pass on her love of volunteering to the next generation.
Kelloway baked 300 cookies to give out with the lemonade at the stand and took pre-orders from the community for boxes of eight cookies with two lemonades to help push the family to raise $2,443 through the day.
Last year Kelloway was approached by a friend to bake some cookies for their lemonade stand and once Kelloway learned about the event, she knew she wanted to do it with her grandkids. The baker owns a business selling cookies and renting carts of sweets, so she knew she was well equipped to raise some money for the Stollery.
Kelloway’s grandchildren loved the day. Lily, who ran the cash register, is destined to be a business tycoon.
“She is going to be quite the little entrepreneur and hopefully great at volunteering as she grows up,” Kelloway said.
“The only thing with Lily is she will take your money, but she does not like to give change,” Kelloway said, adding they have to keep a close eye on their pint-sized saleswoman.
Like the Kelloways, once families start participating in Lemonade Stand Day, they keep at it for years, said chair and originator of the event Monita Chapman.
The fundraising event is in its ninth year. Chapman said their goal this year was to reach the $1-million benchmark since the inception of the event.
“Our slogan was ‘to squeeze our way to a million.’ And so last night, around seven o'clock, we achieved $100,000 of online donations, which put us over the million-dollar mark.
Chapman isn’t exactly sure of the final total of funds raised by the 347 stands and 1,025 kids who participated, but in online donations alone the organization was able to raise $100,000.
In St. Albert, some 17 stands participated in the day, and this year the kids were raising money to renovate a family room at the Stollery, which will provide families with a place to go and relax while the young babies are being cared for by medical staff.
In the end, Chapman said the day is never about the money, especially during COVID-19.
“It was amazing. Money aside, just thinking about the joy and the happiness that it brought to the community, the smiles. It was it was beautiful. It was beautiful to watch. It was beautiful to see. And it was probably my favourite lemonade stand in years,” Chapman said.
“It was just so amazing to see that you can still have fun in this craziness.”
Online donations for Lemonade Stand Day are still open until Sept. 6 and to donate to German’s stand, #251, Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy, or the Kelloway’s stand, #169, The Quirky Lemon, you can visit lemonadeyeg.ca.
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette