Since Rita's Franchise Corp. relabeled its original flavor as "Alex's Lemonade" three years ago, I naively assumed the childrens' cancer charity started by the late Alexandra Scott (1996-2004) and her family got a cut of every lemon ice. But that's not how it works.

Rita's raises money for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation exclusively by selling paper lemons at $1 a pop, during the month of June, at 550 stores including its Philadelphia-area outlets.

In 2006 that raised $510,000; in 2007, $530,000; and last year, $520,000. That makes Rita's "the leading corporate donor" for Alex's, according to the company.

Though the total's been pretty consistent, paper-lemon sales have dropped off, on a per-store basis, since the chain is expanding. Owner Jim Rudolph says he's trying to reverse that. He serves on Alex's board, and he's urging franchisees to help raise this year's donations.