Alex's Lemonade Stand, the nonprofit set up to aid childhood cancer research and honor Alex Scott, is now a household name in the Philadelphia region and across the country.
Children at hundreds of schools have operated their own lemonade stands to benefit the organization, which by January had raised more than $10 million for cancer research.
This April, students at three schools in Chester County joined the effort, but with a high-tech twist.
The schools - East Bradford Elementary in the West Chester Area School District, Avon Grove Intermediate and Phoenixville Area Middle - teamed up with 16 other schools across the country in a virtual lemonade stand, video-conferencing to showcase their ideas and enthusiasm, establishing connections across cyberspace.
Alex Scott, 8, died of a childhood cancer in 2004, after she launched a national fund-raising campaign for cancer research called Alex's Lemonade Stand.
Alex's Virtual Lemonade Stand Project is sponsored by MAGPI, a nonprofit organization under the University of Pennsylvania umbrella that provides Internet2 connectivity to subscribers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
MAGPI provides the Internet2 connection for research and education purposes, and helped each participating school with the technology required to participate in the two video conferences, the first event on April 11, and the wrap-up ceremony on April 26.
Between the two video conferences, schools created a wide array of events to raise money. Poetry and poster contests were run through the Web, as well as a virtual pen-pal project, where students at different schools e-mailed and instant-messaged about their different fund-raising experiences.
After 15 days, about $17,000 had been tallied, more than four times the amount raised in 2006, when only nine schools participated, all from the region.
"They really felt part of a community, the sense of being part of something larger than themselves," said Janice Byrne, kindergarten teacher at East Bradford Elementary.
Avon Grove Intermediate and the Phoenixville middle school were the other schools in the county to link up with schools from Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, among others.
"The virtual part opened up a whole new world for my students," said Marlese Henderson, a fourth grade teacher at Avon Grove Intermediate. "It made them realize that while they may be here in Pennsylvania, there are students all across the country that are working, doing small things trying to make a difference. . . . All of our efforts are making a big difference, and helping possibly find a cure for cancer."
Both video conferences were hosted by Penn Wynne Elementary School in the Lower Merion School District, Alex's former school. Students at Penn Wynne acted as anchors for the show, telling jokes and coordinating the transition from school to school.
Each of the 19 schools involved had a few minutes to show off what it had done to raise money, and give a lemon-theme cheer.
The finale also showcased the winning poems and posters, and an appearance by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) live from Washington. Sestak's daughter Alex is also battling cancer.
"It got such a great response from the kids," said Maureen Gerhart, a teacher at Phoenixville Area Middle School. "They were very personally invested, and every single kid asked if we would do it next year, and if they could be involved."
An interactive Web site with pictures, teacher blogs and podcasts may be viewed at magpi.net/programs/alexslemonade.html.
For more information on Alex's Lemonade Stand, visit alexslemonade.org.