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On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Foundation will hand out its "philanthropist of the year" award to a feisty 7-year-old who has squeezed more benevolence into her short life than most adults 10 times her age.
Alexandra Scott has raised more than $80,000 for cancer research by selling cups of lemonade from a stand in her front yard in Wynnewood, Pa.
Weakened by neuroblastoma, a potentially deadly form of cancer that affects mostly babies and small children, Alexandra is able to put up her stand only a few times a year. But when she does, it pays off.
Last Saturday she raked in $14,000, despite nonstop rain that forced her to pitch a tent. One $500 check came from the Philadelphia 76ers pro basketball team.
"When life gives you lemons you should make lemonade, and that's exactly what this little girl has done," said Phil Arkow of the Philadelphia Foundation, an 85-year-old philanthropic organization. "Alex has an amazing spirit, and she has been an inspiration to everyone who knows her."
It was just two days before her first birthday that doctors in Connecticut discovered a growth on Alex's spinal column that turned out to be neuroblastoma, which is fatal in about 40 percent of cases.
The doctors operated on Alex's first birthday, and successfully removed 99 percent of the tumor.
But the stubborn growth came back, and even after another four surgeries it wouldn't go away.
When a portion of her spinal cord was removed, it became tough for Alex to walk. She was forced to wear leg braces, but then one day decided to try and get by without them. She whipped them off, and hasn't worn them since.
Her parents, Jay and Liz Scott, were given the name of a doctor in Philadelphia who started Alex on an experimental radioactive iodine treatment.
Her condition stabilized, and she was able to attend public school and design clothes for her dolls, one of her favorite hobbies.
Jay Scott, who sells medical books, was able to get a transfer from Connecticut to Philadelphia so that the family, including Alex's three brothers, could stay together while she continued her treatments at Children's Hospital there.
Liz Scott said she still can't fathom the success of the lemonade stand, which was strictly her daughter's idea.
"She had just turned 4 and was in the hospital getting a stem cell transplant," she said. "One day she announced she wanted to have a lemonade stand. ... Then she said she wanted to give the money to the hospital."
Hoping to spare Alex from disappointment, her parents told her she'd have to sell an inordinate amount of lemonade to raise any real money.
"I don't care. I want to do it anyway," Alex told her mother.
News of the stand spread by word of mouth, and she raised $2,000 on her first Saturday.
The stand is open only for three hours on occasional Saturdays, and even then Alex often has to go lie down and rest. Students and faculty from Penn Wynne Elementary School, where Alex attends first grade, often pitch in at the stand.
Last August, Alex and her mother created Alex's Lemonade Stand Fund with the help of the Philadelphia Foundation, which establishes charitable funds for those who don't want to set up their own foundations.
"It was incredible to see a fund agreement being signed by someone at the ripe old age of 6," Arkow said.
The money she raises goes to both the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, where she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
The award from the Philadelphia Foundation isn't the first she's received for her efforts. In April, Alex was chosen from 2,036 nominees as one of the nation's top 10 heroes by the Volvo for Life Awards, billed as "the largest-ever national search and celebration of everyday heroes."
Asked her favorite thing about selling lemonade, Alex said, "there's no part that is my favorite part because I like everything about it."
A typical first grader, she adds that her favorite thing about school is "going home."
It's not clear whether she'll be able to attend Wednesday night's awards ceremony. A nasty migraine put Alex back in the hospital on Monday.
Just last month, she was forced to spend two weeks in the hospital after pressure from her tumor caused kidney bleeding.
"We're used to this by now," said Jay Scott. "But that doesn't mean it's easy."
On the Web:
Alex's Lemonade Stand Fund: www.philafound.org/Alexslemonade.html
Shelley Emling's e-mail address is email@example.com
Cox News Service