The Lemonade Brigade has been so busy these past months that they have trouble keeping track of which event was for which person.
Sitting in the basement turned Lemonade Brigade headquarters, three of the girls – the core group of five children is often supplemented by friends and family members – shared stories about the lemonade stands and other fundraising activities they hosted since the group started last summer.
Aubrey Hennig – whose basement has been taken over by signs, fliers and other Lemonade Brigade paraphernalia – started the group with two of her friends, Baylon Diebold and Morgan LoMonaco, with the idea of raising money for a distant relative of hers, who at the age of 3 had seen his rare form of leukemia return.
Over six days, the girls raised $800.
After that, things were quiet. The girls went back to school.
Aubrey was in gym class near the end of a school day when an announcement came over the loud speakers informing students they couldn’t walk home and that after-school activities were canceled.
The county was in the middle of a 16-hour manhunt for a man suspected of shooting McHenry County sheriff deputies Dwight Maness and Khalia Satkiewicz, who, along with another deputy, had responded to a domestic dispute call at a Northeast Shore Drive home in Holiday Hills.
The 12-year-old daughter of the man charged with the shooting – who got out of the home safely with her mother – attends McHenry Middle School with Aubrey and Baylon. Morgan goes to Parkland Middle School on the other side of town.
The girls decided to have another lemonade stand to raise money for the family, an endeavor that quickly expanded to multiple events for the Holiday Hills family and the families of the injured officers.
Sue Maness was in the hospital when she heard about the girls’ plan, waiting for news about her husband, Deputy Dwight Maness, who was shot in the leg and the back abdomen area. Her daughter was with her, keeping an eye on Facebook.
Sue Maness knew she needed to meet the girls – and the other children who came out to help, adding that they were all such “good little people” and so mature for their age. (She made them yellow jewelry the girls showed off during a recent interview – along with lemon knit hats and matching Lemonade Brigade T-shirts, all donated by “fans.”)
“Everything surprised us,” Maness said. “Everybody was just so unbelievably supporting and caring, monetarily and sending their prayers. ... Something like this gives you a hit in the gut, and then all the people come forward.”
Dwight Maness had eight surgeries as of early February, with at least one more planned. Satkiewicz also was shot in the leg and was released from Centegra Hospital – McHenry the day after the incident.
Since the Holiday Hills fundraisers, the girls – now a core group of five children made up of two of the original girls, Aubrey and Morgan, both 11 years old and from McHenry, as well as Samantha Parrish, 12, of Woodstock; Kailyn Fanning, 7, of Lake in the Hills; and Julia Rennetaud, 11, of Lakemoor – have been busy.
“After we did the lemonade stands, people were still supportive,” Aubrey said. “It just wouldn’t stop. People are great. Our community is awesome.”
The group established weekly meetings because otherwise they would just end up doing Lemonade Brigade work all the time. That’s how much they’ve enjoyed doing the work, said Chrissy Christiansen, Aubrey’s mother who has helped with the logistics.
The events continue to line up, including St. Baldrick’s events, speaking to students at St. Peter and Paul School in Cary and walking in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in McHenry. But their next big project is a three-day worldwide lemonade stand.
Their goal is to get children from around the world to sell lemonade and donate the money to local kids in need.
“I think they’re more understanding about what they’re doing,” said April Diamond, Samantha’s mother. “They’re understanding what it is to give back to the community. ... They’ve learned [that before] but never as much as they have during this voyage.”
The girls said the volunteering has made them more outgoing.
“I used to be really scared to come up to people and ask them if they wanted lemonade,” Samantha said. “Obviously, I could talk to people all day about the Lemonade Brigade, but it was just going up to them and trying to sell something.”
“Because of the fear that they’re going to say, ‘No,’ ” Aubrey chimed in.