OLMSTEDVILLE - That summer staple, lemonade, is easy to find all season long, but 11-year-old Meghan Dunkley is selling her lemonade with a side of charity. She'll run her fundraising lemonade stand for a fifth year at Sullivan's Store during Minerva Day festivities Saturday, July 2.
Dunkley said the stand can get busy and work can be hot, but "I like knowing that I'm helping."
When Dunkley was 6, her grandmother, Darlene Kelly, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Though Kelly was treated successfully, the struggle left a lasting impression on the citrus-selling schoolgirl.
"I think it was a scary thing for somebody 6 years old to see her grandmother sick and losing her hair," Kelly said.
With chemotherapy and surgery to battle the cancerous cells, Kelly shaved her head. In a sign of their close relationship, Dunkley was right with her grandmother, helping out with a tough moment in a tough time.
These difficulties got Dunkley and her grandmother thinking, of all things, about lemonade.
At Sullivan's, a brand of lemonade called Alex's was sold. On its label was the story of a young girl diagnosed with cancer before her first birthday, who started selling lemonade at age 4 to benefit childhood cancer research.
Dealing with cancer was so tough for her and her granddaughter, said Kelly, that the idea of children going through such hardships made them want to do whatever they could to help.
So Dunkley launched her own stand in 2006. She runs the stand on Minerva Day, because "that's the busiest day here"
For her first couple years, Dunkley used a table for her stand. But soon, her family all pitched in to make a dedicated stand. Her grandfather, Tom Kelly, built from plans for an easy to build and break down stand that her mother, Caroline Kelly, found. Her brother, Riley, helped paint the stand with bright colors their grandfather had handy.
Her family also helps out by making cookies and brownies for the effort. Two years ago, Dunkley's mother made chocolate chip cookies that sold so fast, she had to run back home and make another batch.
She's had help staffing the stand from her fourth-grader brother, a cousin and a Fresh Air kid.
Dunkley's mother said she's very proud of her daughter, and her grandmother added, "It's nice to be dedicated to something like this that helps other people."
The family no longer has a supplier for Alex's Lemonade, so they make do with canned lemonade but still forward their earnings to the foundation.
This year, the foundation sent pledge sheets that are available at Sullivan's. When a donation is made, the contributor can put their name on the sheet for display in store with other charitable souls.
The stand will run from 8 a.m. to noon. Their goal last year was $500, just like this year, and they hit $400, with a couple dollars kicked in by her mother to make it a nice round number.
Her great aunt got her started with a $50 donation, and web donations can be made at www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/74022.