A pint-size platoon of volunteer fund-raisers arrived at River Forest's Opportunity Knocks on Monday, bringing with them a pledge to make life at the resource agency a little bit sweeter.
The children and their parents are part of the Charity Lemon-Aid Stand, a grass-roots fund-raising effort started by a group of River Forest residents to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Each year since the attacks, the group has placed a lemonade stand in the 700 block of Bonnie Brae Place and donated the proceeds to local charities.
It's the neighborhood's attempt to shift focus from the anniversary of the tragic day to a positive community rally.
This year, the Lemon-Aid helpers picked Opportunity Knocks, a resource center for the developmentally disabled.
"I'm amazed at how well their program came together and the warmth of all of the kids," said Elizabeth Strand, a River Forest mom who has been active in the Lemon-Aid group.
On Monday, the Opportunity Knocks staff and program participants introduced themselves to the children volunteers at the agency's offices inside the River Forest Community Center.
Phil Carmody, the group's co-founder and current president, said Opportunity Knocks relies exclusively on private donations, so efforts like Lemon-Aid go a long way to help pay for a revolving menu of programs and activities such as self-defense sessions and music lessons.
But this isn't a simple neighborhood stand. Not anymore, anyway.
What started as a feel-good fund-raiser — the stand collected $400 in its 2002 debut — has turned into a small-scale powerhouse. Last year, Lemon-Aid raised $8,500 for the Children's Clinic.
Mike Carmody, an Opportunity Knocks co-founder and brother of Phil, draws parallels between the two groups, saying both organizations have formed with modest intents but have expanded into areas where they can do the most good.
"We started small and we're building," he said.
WHO: Public welcome
WHAT: The Ninth Annual Charity Lemon-Aid Stand
WHEN: Sept. 11 from 12-4 p.m.
WHERE: 700 block of Bonnie Brae Place in River Forest