COLUMBUS — Madeline Hudnall handed over a couple cans of ice-cold lemonade to a customer on a hot day last summer.
The temperature was already warm enough just before noon that plenty of people were coming to the lemonade stand outside Hy-Vee to get a cool refreshment. There were also chocolate chip cookies to entice those walking into the local grocery store.
The stand was arranged under tents that extended along the storefront. It's a large setup that has grown since Hudnall started selling lemonade a decade ago.
“I kind of thought I’d be doing this for 10 years, but I never thought it would be this big,” the teen said.
She opened her first Alex’s Lemonade Stand in her yard, hoping to raise a few dollars to support childhood cancer research.
With support from the community and businesses, the fundraising effort has grown. Joined by her little sister Lillian, the pair have collected thousands of dollars for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
“I always thought $25,000 by the time I was out of high school would be great, Hudnall said.
Now a sophomore, Hudnall said the effort has raised more than $31,000.
Joining the sisters in their effort are friends and family members, including parents Delanie and Eric Hudnall, who help out at the stand.
Hudnall initially started the stand in honor of her friend Charli Preister, who was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, other local youths who are battling cancer have been part of the fundraising, including Kyle Anderson.
The 2017 Columbus High School graduate was helping sell lemonade at the latest venture in June. He was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 12 and has been through multiple treatments.
His mother, Deb Anderson, was also there and is appreciative of the effort by the Hudnall family.
“It’s really amazing because the commitment for this family to keep this up is a huge amount of work,” she said.
The event helps bring awareness and financing to childhood cancer research, which Anderson said doesn’t receive a lot of national funding.
The most recent stand, Hudnall said, is being held in honor of Colette “Coco” Haskell, a 22-month-old from Omaha who died from brain cancer. The young girl has family members in Columbus.
Hudnall hopes to continue with the stand at least until she graduates from high school. Even though it takes about a month of preparation work, knowing that she is helping others keeps Hudnall and her family going.
“I know I’m doing something good. I just know that the things I’m doing here are going to help kids and their families,” she said.