At just 6 years old, Grace Bergin was already volunteering - at a party for families affected by HIV, which her parents were involved with. But that day set in motion something much bigger when the organizer gave Grace the book, "Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand."
Immediately, Grace, now 11 and a student at , knew she wanted to hold a lemonade stand, too.
“I read the book and decided I wanted to do it but I wanted to keep all the money in Connecticut so I decided to do Grace’s Lemonade Stand,” she said.
Money raised at Alex’s Lemonade Stands, initiated by Alexandra Scott, a young girl who fought and ultimately died of cancer, goes toward fighting childhood cancers and caring for families affected by them.
But as a patient at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Grace wanted the money she raised to go there, so she began Grace’s Lemonade Stand along the Memorial Day parade route three years ago. Grace pours the lemonade, charging $1 per cup as paradegoers pass by. Usually, her customers will present $5 or $10 or $20 bills and Grace will ask, “Would you like change?”
Since then, Grace, with help from siblings and friends, has held a lemonade stand each year – even last year when the Farmington parade was rained out – and the money has added up. She has presented $3,600 to CCMC's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and this year hopes to raise $6,400 to bring her total to $10,000.
It’s not just her customers who are generous, though. All of Grace’s lemonade is donated by Whole Foods. This year the store provided 102 bottles. And it’s also provided support by posting flyers about Grace’s Lemonade Stand and promoting it on Facebook.
“The first year the sign said ‘Donated by Whole Foods,’” Grace explained. “The second year it said ‘Proudly donated.'”
Waiting along the sidewalk behind her lemonade stand, Grace hears a lot of stories, her mother Jeanne Higgins Bergin said.
“People always say ‘oh my granddaughter, or my niece or neighbor was treated there’ or a kid is like ‘I was treated there,” Bergin said, noting that all the feedback is good. “People say wonderful things about it, how there are wonderful people at CCMC and they received great care.”
Look for Grace at 80 Main St. in Farmington Monday between 9:30 a.m. and noon. Once the parade is over, Grace usually follows the parade to the and offers her lemonade there.
Lemonade is free to police, firefighters and members of the military.
You can also follow Grace’s efforts and donate to her cause here.