To know Nicolle Rogers is to know you are in the presence of genuine love and kindness. She effortlessly exudes both, from the way she talks about her family to how she relates to the young children she teaches at Union United Methodist Preschool. Nicolle is one of the most generous and caring individuals I’ve ever known, and her efforts in support of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation are no exception.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand, named after its founder, Alexandra Scott, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to change the lives of children with cancer through funding impactful research and raising awareness.
The foundation was started by Alex, who wanted a way to raise funds for “her hospital,” and for the other children receiving cancer treatments. The harsh reality is that less than 4% of the federal government’s total funding for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancers each year, making foundations dedicated to pediatric cancer research, like Alex’s, all the more important.
Nicolle, along with her husband, Chris, and their children, Lucas (13) and Tessa (10), are doing everything they can to help change the narrative, and live out Alex’s mission by hosting their own Lemonade Stand annually (along with countless mini-events). Over the past eight years their events have grown from raising $1,400 that first year to over $30,000 in 2020 (yes, even amid the pandemic).
Recently, I sat down with Nicolle to learn more about her and her family’s involvement with Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Tell me how you first got involved with Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
We initially saw Alex’s Lemonade Stand advertised while on a trip to Vegas when Chris and I were dating. Alex had recently passed away from neuroblastoma, and The Today Show was sharing her story. There was a Lemonade Stand happening in Vegas while we were there, so we actually found it and bought our first glass of lemonade in support of the foundation. At the time, I was in graduate school and volunteering at the hospital on the oncology floor, so Alex’s story really struck a chord with us. For our wedding, instead of favors, we did a donation in honor of our guests to Alex’s Lemonade Stand. And we just knew that when we had kids we would want to host our own Lemonade Stand as a family.
Tell me a little more about your family.
Chris and I have been married for 15 years this summer. We are both originally from the midwest and moved around for his job in college athletics, which brought us to South Carolina about nine years ago. Lucas is a rising 8th grader and attends Chapin Middle. He has played soccer with South Carolina United since he was eight, so we travel a lot to watch him play. Tessa is a rising 5th grader and will be at Chapin Intermediate this fall. She loves theatre and dance and all things girl. We really like to travel as a family and the kids surprisingly love snow, so we try to visit family in Minnesota whenever we can!
What has the experience been like involving your children with Alex’s Lemonade Stand?
Alex’s Lemonade Stand has given us more as a family than we could ever give to their Foundation. The really cool thing is that it’s about a kid who tried to do something cool to help others, and how easy it is for our kids to live on through that. It’s easy for kids to have a lemonade stand and raise $5 – it’s just such an easy concept for them to grasp. Giving is such a huge part of who Chris and I are, but teaching children empathy can be a tough thing to do. For us, part of raising good humans is helping them realize they are blessed – we may not have everything we want, but we have everything we need, and there are a lot of people who do not – so what can we do to help those who may be less fortunate? The Lemonade Stand is a really easy platform for our kids to be engaged with and they love it – they look forward to Lemonade Stand day as much as Christmas!
What advice do you have for parents who hope to instill similar values in their children, and get them involved in giving?
It’s really hard to find volunteer opportunities for kids younger than 18, but finding something they are passionate about is key. For example, Tessa is really into animals and for her birthday last year, she decided to donate to Pawmetto Lifeline in lieu of birthday gifts. Kids will get on board if it’s something they are interested in, sometimes you just need to ask! It’s such an easy way for them to be involved and to think outside of themselves. We taught our children from a very early age that there are three things to do with money: you spend it, you save it, you give it. They each have three cups and that’s what they’ve done since they were really young. To know that a piece of being a good person is giving back to people, can be such an easy value to instill, you just have to find ways to get them excited. Find something that your kids love – maybe it’s animals or babies or soccer – build off of that. Call your local animal shelter or youth soccer club and see what they need and involve your kids in the process of deciding what and how to donate.
How can Columbia families support your 8th annual Lemonade Stand on August 7th?
The easiest way for people to support our Lemonade Stand is to simply tell other people about it. We don’t have any family in-state, so it always amazes me how we run this event without family present – it’s all about community – neighbors, friends, and volunteers. This event is held in our front yard, but we don’t do it alone, so many people come to help. The community really gets involved by donating auction items, helping out day-of, and simply buying glasses of lemonade and cookies. Even just sharing about our event on Facebook and Instagram widens our community of people, and is so helpful.
Do you have a favorite memory from hosting Lemonade Stands over the years?
I love it when kids show up with their piggy bank money. Every year it makes me cry because these young children just get it, ya know? They’re a part of something bigger than themselves and it’s awesome. One of my overall favorite “big” moments was a few years ago when we got a message on Twitter from someone living in Virginia, and he said: “If you ever want to know what you’re doing, and how it’s helping people, show them this video.” He was following Chris on Twitter because he was also a Gamecock and saw our Lemonade Stand posts. The video clip was of his daughter, who was cured of cancer because of a drug funded by Alex’s Lemonade Stand. This drug was basically her last chance; she had gone through multiple treatments and her cancer wasn’t getting better. After her final treatment with this specific drug, her scan came back clear and her tumor was gone. Over 700 kids are diagnosed with cancer every single day, and you might not realize there are people right now in your community who are affected, so that moment just felt full circle.
As a mom of young boys, my personal favorite moment from the Rogers family lemonade stand was when it all finally clicked for my oldest. He brought me a pocketful of his own money last year and told me he wanted to “give it to the sick kids, so maybe they won’t have to be sick anymore.” The Rogers Family Lemonade Stand has given my husband and I such a beautiful way to teach our young children about the purpose and meaning behind giving; about how and why we donate our time and money to certain causes like this one.
I believe the values my kids are learning, as a result, will carry them throughout their lifetime. More than almost anything I can teach them, I hope to instill an innate caring nature and a servant’s heart. As Nicolle said during our interview – we just want to raise good humans. For this reason, and so many more, I consider myself (and my entire family) incredibly blessed to have formed a friendship with Nicolle, Chris, and their amazingly selfless children. This family is creating awareness, building community, and instilling values in people both young and old, near and far; they are truly changing lives.
Collectively, the Rogers family has raised over $107,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and Nicolle has personally baked over 4,550 cookies for their mini-events (raising $10,000 in cookie sales alone – talk about turning a passion into an avenue to give!).
What I love about Nicolle’s story, and Alex’s Lemonade Stand, is that anyone can contact the Foundation and register a lemonade stand. It is such a tangible way to do work that matters, as a family. And, as Nicolle’s husband Chris always says, “Your dollar could be THE dollar that funds a cure.”