Nothing says summer like a lemonade stand.
Messy handmade promo posters. Refreshing tartness in clear plastic cups. Sweet little people overseeing quiet card tables.
If you have kids, chances are good that you'll host a lemonade stand (or two) this summer. But what if your stand was more than a low-stakes exercise in entrepreneurship? What if your stand STOOD for something? What if it made a difference in another child’s life?
This summer, the Schulte girls will be hosting a lemonade stand for the Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation - the St. Charles, Ill.-based nonprofit that honors the life of young Benjamin Gerlach.
God placed Ben's mom, Elizabeth, at my table for the 2016-17 session of Moms Together (another amazing Chapelstreet Church program). I've so enjoyed getting to know her! Elizabeth and her husband, Rob, launched a foundation in Ben's name this spring.
Ben was a beautiful light in his family and community. Here's a little bit about Ben, in his momma's words:
Benjamin, his brother Colin and sister Ava were born prematurely at 25 weeks. They spent their first months of life in the NICU at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Born on June 30, 2012, Ben finally came home almost five months later. He had an extremely tough time while in the NICU. A loss of oxygen to his brain at one point during a serious infection resulted in his primary diagnosis of Cystic Encephalomalacia. We knew this would impact his development but not to what extent. At 10 months, he was diagnosed as Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy. In addition, he had a feeding tube, vision impairment, epilepsy, was nonverbal and had severe gross and fine motor deficiencies.
The last year and a half of his life, Ben struggled with respiratory viruses/illnesses and was on oxygen support full time. Where a sniffle or runny nose might not be a ‘big deal’ for a typical kid, for Ben, it most likely would mean hospitalization. After numerous viruses and hospital stays, he caught Adenovirus and passed away from respiratory failure on May 2, 2016, in the PICU at Lurie Children’s. Despite his daily struggles, Ben was a happy kid, who loved being around his brother and sister. He was in a blended preschool class for almost a full year and loved it. He had many friends who cared about him, and he laughed and smiled a lot. I miss his smile every day.
I cannot imagine Elizabeth and Rob's heartbreak. Within a year of Ben's passing, they started Ben Smiles, which donates adapted toys, communication tools and other devices to children with developmental delays, who would benefit tremendously from such technology. The foundation works with Chapelstreet Church, Easter Seals and District 303’s Early Childhood Program to get equipment in the hands of kids who need it most.
Ben's siblings recently ran a lemonade stand fundraiser for Ben Smiles, and the family would love it if their community continued the momentum in Summer 2017.
What do you say?
You too, Grandparents - what a fun and meaningful activity to do with the grandkids when they're on your home turf! Beyond the obvious lemonade stand goodness, a Ben Smiles lemonade stand helps to teach the little ones in your world that:
- Some kids are on a different journey,
- And sometimes their medical and physical needs can be involved,
- But they still love to learn and play,
- And God gave YOU the ability to help them get toys that meet their needs.
Here are 5 simple steps to running a stand for Ben Smiles in Summer 2017. Get the kids involved in every step!
- Set up your stand with all the fixins.
- Decorate a sign that says "Lemonade for Ben Smiles."
- Work your magic, and sell that lemonade!
- Share your stand pics on Facebook and Instagram, and tag Ben Smiles in your posts. (#bensmiles)
- Pass along your donation to Ben Smiles HERE.
Elizabeth and Rob would love to see 50 lemonade stands hosted across the Midwest (and beyond?) this summer. Visit Ben Smiles on Facebook to notify Elizabeth of your stand and share your pics, to keep the fun and inspiration running all summer long!