The call from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) came in the beginning of March, congratulating me on my acceptance into their summer internship program. I was thrilled that I had secured a summer internship, something that had been looming over my head in the previous months. I would be working as the Public Relations and Social Media intern for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a Philadelphia based nonprofit organization that funds childhood cancer research and programs for families with a child battling cancer. I had worked with the foundation previously through a St. Joe’s class, and was looking forward to delving more into what working for a nonprofit entailed, especially one as renowned as Alex’s.
I have to admit, I was incredibly nervous before my first day, but it wasn’t the typical first day jitters. I was worried that working for a nonprofit focused on childhood cancer would leave me going home every day feeling hopeless. Childhood cancer is sad; there is no other way to put it. And I was not sure that I could handle the depressing stories and statistics, meeting children who were sick – and then just leaving my work in the office.
I have never been happier to say that I was wrong. Simply put, my summer at Alex’s changed my life in more ways than I ever thought possible.
From a professional standpoint, I know I have grown. Because of my strength as a writer, I was given numerous writing projects that enabled me to find my professional voice. I grew confident in my ability to write professionally yet creatively. I not only found this confidence, but a possible career option, too. For the first time, I wrote for a cause bigger than getting an A; I wrote as my job. I learned valuable skills through these projects and through members of the Communications team, and I will keep these skills at the forefront of my mind when future writing endeavors arise.
While I am pleased at the professional gains I have made this summer, the real growth I felt was more on a personal level. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation radiates hope and happiness. These feelings were almost tangible, as soon as you walk through its doors. The people who work at Alex’s, from the Special Events coordinators to the Data Entry Specialists to the Communications team, mean business when it comes to fighting childhood cancer, but the compassion for the families impacted by a diagnosis is ever present. Everyone believes in the same goal: to cure childhood cancer. This created a mentality that no job is below anyone, which makes tasks that might otherwise feel mundane, worth something.
I walked through the office doors every day, feeling inspired by the message ALSF’s founder, Alex Scott, left behind. Alex was a young girl fighting cancer herself when she decided to hold a lemonade stand, with an eventual goal of raising one million dollars for childhood cancer research. She successfully surpassed her goal, along with the help of lemonade stands held nationwide, before she passed away at 8 years old. Her message holds true with many people, and it holds true with me. It is a message of perseverance, and working for something bigger than yourself. The entire ALSF staff feels this way, which is what makes its culture so special.
Meeting childhood cancer heroes and their families allowed me to gain a perspective I would not have had the opportunity to experience if it had not been for my internship. The strength and energy the heroes encompass is unlike anything I would have ever expected from a child battling cancer. They are still children; they still love to watch Disney movies and play with Legos. They are not their cancer, and it was inspiring to see. I was able to physically see what, and who, I was working for every single day. It kept me motivated for the entirety of my internship, and something that will forever leave an imprint on me.
In the final week of the program, I did not expect to be as sad as I am about leaving ALSF. I have enjoyed working on writing projects and in the nonprofit world, but most importantly I have fallen in love with working in this specific organization more than I thought possible. I am eternally grateful for this summer, and I leave Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation with a new purpose and a new sense of direction.
-Emma Brenner, ‘20