In many ways, Alex Scott was a regular kid. Her favorite food was French fries; her favorite color, blue. She hoped to be a fashion designer one day. But in other ways—perhaps most ways—Alex was different. In 1997, just before her first birthday, Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer. A tumor was removed from her abdomen and back, and doctors told her parents, Liz and Jay, that if she beat the cancer she would not likely walk again. Two weeks later Alex moved her leg—one of the many early clues about her determination and capabilities.
When Alex was four, after receiving a stem cell transplant, she came up with a plan that would change how she and her family coped with cancer: “When I get out of the hospital I want to have a lemonade stand,” she said. Alex set up a table in her front yard, and like thousands of other junior entrepreneurs around the country, started selling paper cups of lemonade to neighbors and passersby. Her hand-printed sign advertised, along with the price of the lemonade, that all proceeds would go to childhood cancer research. Alex was determined and successful; her first stand earned $2,000.
By selling lemonade every year in her front yard she helped raise $1 million and built awareness for her cause. Alex passed away in 2004 at the age of eight, but her hope to cure childhood cancer through selling lemonade only grew. In 2005, her parents formed a nonprofit foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, to raise money to eradicate children’s cancer. ALSF was successful in raising over $30 million for cancer research because it focused on honoring Alex’s wish to raise money to fight childhood cancer, grabbed attention by tapping into a deep-rooted American tradition—selling lemonade, engaged the public by telling a compelling story about Alex and her original goal, and made it simple for others to take action.
Read the Stanford Graduate School of Business case study: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation: Eradicating Cancer, One Cup at a Time.