ELMHURST – As school lets out for the summer, many children casually consider opening a lemonade stand.
Some take it seriously.
Anna Ciamarra, a first-grader at Immaculate Conception Grade School, will hold her third annual lemonade stand from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 2 in her school's parking lot at 132 Arthur St. in Elmhurst, and the goal is to raise thousands of dollars for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, which fights childhood cancer.
Anna, now 8, was 5 when she was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, said her mother, Ruth Ciamarra.
When the Lombard family decided to hold its first lemonade stand, Anna was about eight months into treatment, and it was hard for Ciamarra to find things Anna was able to do because of her weakened immune system.
"We thought this was a perfect solution in so many ways because she would be able to not only get out of the house, even if it was just our front yard, but do what all kids like to do, which is have a lemonade stand – with a great purpose in being able to use the money to help kids like her and families like ours," Ciamarra said.
The goal the first year was to make hundreds of dollars. Now the goal is $10,000. The family raised more than $15,000 last year after a $5,000 goal, with involvement from Immaculate Conception Grade School, but the Ciamarras want to stay realistic.
Anna has finished 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy, and her cancer is in remission, according to her donation page.
Through the foundation, Anna and her family, including Anna's father, Tony, and sister, Claire, have been able to meet families going through similar challenges and advocate for people impacted by childhood cancer through local events, such as cheering on participants in the Lewis University Lemon Club 5K fundraiser.
"Childhood cancer is not an easy thing to talk about. It's scary for kids and adults to think about, and yet it's important to be a voice for them because a lot of times you don't see them because they're at home or in a hospital, and it's sort of invisible to a lot of people," Ruth Ciamarra said.
Immaculate Conception has held classroom donation "wars," where students competed to raise money for the foundation to gain an award of a "dress down day," where the winners don't need to wear their uniforms to school.
Andrea Krautkramer, a friend of the family, said Ruth Ciamarra reached out to her and another mom, Stephanie Maddock, when the family was new to Immaculate Conception and wanted to do the lemonade stand with school community support.
"It's been an honor to partner with Ruth and her family. I can't really imagine being new to a school and then having your kindergartner diagnosed with cancer," Krautkramer said.
With Ciamarra approaching them again this year following last year's success, Krautkramer said it shows "what kind of heart" they have because of the family's willingness to continue to give support to the foundation.
"The school kids have been so supportive of Anna and Claire, and our whole family, and they really take pride in being able to deliver these donations, participate in the stand. It's so much fun," Ciamarra said. "So our expectations are we have just as much fun as we did last year about sharing awareness and sharing perspective on what childhood cancer is and why research funding is so desperately needed for it."
If you go
WHAT: Anna's Lemonade Stand
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 2
WHERE: Immaculate Conception Grade School parking lot, 132 Arthur St., Elmhurst