As shoppers streamed in and out of Trader Joe’s and Food 4 Less in San Luis Obispo on Sunday, 8-year-old Tessa Roos and her mother, Sarah, set up a stand in front of Whiz Kids.
Sarah Roos iced cupcakes and placed cookies and Rice Krispies treats adorned with iced yellow ribbons—the symbol for childhood cancer awareness — on plastic trays under Tessa’s watchful eye. A sign in front of the stand read, “Go Team Max.” Soon, shoppers started lining up to buy baked goods or lemonade, or just to drop a few dollars in the donation jar.
All proceeds from the lemonade stand will go to Max Collins, a student at Laguna Middle School, who has been diagnosed with aplastic anemia. His body has thus far rejected attempted bone marrow transplants, and he and his family have been battling the disease for about three years, Sarah Roos said. Roos is a teacher at Laguna.
“We’re trying to help this family who has been going through a tough time for a really long time,” Sarah Roos said.
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And it’s a tough time the Roos family knows all too well. Right before Tessa turned 3, she started battling cancer. Her family traveled back and forth from San Luis Obispo to Stanford over a seven-month period for treatment. Finally, doctors found a compatible bone marrow donor and completed the transplant in January 2013.
When Sarah shared Max’s story at dinner, Tessa told her she wanted to help. That’s how the idea for the lemonade stand started, and Sarah Roos contacted the owner of Whiz Kids and got permission to set up the stand.
Sarah Roos said her family was lucky that they had relatives who lived close to Stanford. Most families aren’t that fortunate.
“It’s travel expenses, it’s gas, lodging, food ... things you shouldn’t have to worry about when you’re dealing with your child’s life,” Sarah said. “If we can make it just a little bit easier for them —” she stopped. A woman and a little girl had walked up to the lemonade stand and asked Tessa and her mom for some baked goods. Soon, more people were lined up, waiting for their chance to get a tasty treat and donate money to the cause.
One woman scooped up three Rice Krispies treats for her children, who were at home, she told Sarah. She handed Tessa a crisp $20 bill.
“Thank you, honey,” she said. “No change necessary.”
A man walking past paused at the stand. “I don’t need sweets, but I’ll support a local family fighting childhood cancer,” he said, dropping a few bills into the donation jar.
Sarah Roos said they hoped to raise about $300 for the family.
“It’s very meaningful for us to be able to do this for somebody else,” she said. “I’m very proud of her (Tessa). She’s a pretty amazing kid.”