Anniversary of a Tragedy, Marked with Charity
For the 10th year, the 700 block of Bonnie Brae Place in River Forest becomes the center of goodwill.
Luke Olson was just 7 years old when America came under attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
"The most I really knew was that two planes crashed into the World Trade Center," said Olson, now 17. "I didn't understand the personal toll."
But many on Olson's block — the 700 block of Bonnie Brae Place — understood terrorism's impact on the country and to its people. Together with the kids on the block, they created the 9/11 Charity LemonAid Stand, a neighborhood event that sends it proceeds to a nominated local nonprofit.
What started as a grassroots neighborhood effort — the stand collected $400 in its 2002 debut — has swelled into a major local event. (In fact, the kids aren't even making the lemonade anymore — it will be supplied by nearby Whole Foods Market.)
In 2009, LemonAid raised $8,500 for the Children's Clinic, which provides affordable health care to disadvantaged children. In 2010, the stand raised about $11,000 for Opportunity Knocks, a resource agency for the developmentally disabled. This year, proceeds will benefit Thrive Counseling, a social service, recovery and mental healthy agency in Oak Park.
Between the bake sale, tent set-up and takedown, logistics and organizing, about 80 people, young and old, have worked to make this year's LemonAid stand the biggest yet.
Patty Henek, a River Forest resident who's helped put LemonAid together from its inception, said the neighborhood involvement is a testament to the day's comraderie and community spirit.
"That’s what keeps us going," she said. "The support we get from everybody is amazing."
For Olson, who's starting his senior year at Fenwick High School the perspective of ten years past has been eye-opening.
"As I’ve grown with this lemonade stand, I've seen how 9/11 stand has affected people. Now, I see that I can do something. Now I’m working to make a difference," he said. "It's changed my life."