O’FALLON – Nine years ago, Jessica Kuca began hosting a lemonade stand to raise money to fight cancer. Since then she’s raised a large amount of money and expanded her charitable focus.
Fourteen-year-old Jessica explained that the inspiration for the lemonade stand was her aunt’s son, who passed away from cancer, along with a good friend of the family who passed away from breast cancer.
“I wanted to do something to help. So we started the lemonade stand and began raising donations,” she said.
Jessica is giving half of this year’s proceeds to Kellsie’s Hope Foundation, which was conceived by Kellsie Marchbanks during her second round of cancer treatment. In 2011, Kellsie passed away and the foundation was formed to celebrate her life. The organization’s goal is to help families with children suffering from cancer by offering support for trips and provide gifts that would otherwise not be attainable for a child with cancer. The foundation also raises money to support research into childhood cancers and providing a nursing scholarship each year.
Additionally, this is the second year Jessica will be splitting the proceeds and giving half to Adapt 4 Autism.
“My little brother Braden has autism spectrum disorder. He’s very high functioning which we’re really lucky for that. But I still wanted to do something to help. Adapt 4 Autism is a summer camp for kids with autism. They take them to autism friendly gyms and places like Monkey Joe’s. I was lucky enough to volunteer a few times and I loved it. Last year we added Adapt 4 Autism as a recipient of the lemonade stand,” Jessica explained.
Great weather on Saturday made for a steady flow of customers at the lemonade stand.
“Things have been great. A lot of people donate before the day of the lemonade stand, which is wonderful. It’s been a constant stream of people. The firetruck from O’Fallon came out. They’ve come out nearly every year. They let kids look at the truck and dress up. They’re amazing,” said Mary Jo Guinn, Jessica’s mom.
Aside from treats like cookies and lemonade, there is also a raffle where entrants can win various donated prizes.
Guinn estimates Jessica has raised between $50,000 and $60,000 collectively over the years.
“Its a wonderful day that always restores my faith in humanity,” said Guinn.