When life gave the country lemons, the Olympic Hills neighborhood made lemonade.
Twenty years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Eden Prairie neighborhood continues to do so during its annual Olympic Hills 9/11 Lemonade Stand.
This year’s lemonade stand will mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at 9497 Painters Ridge, Eden Prairie.
“It’s actually our 21st anniversary because we had one a week after 9/11,” said Sue Donkersgoed, the event’s one constant through the years. “My son (Van) was in second grade, and now he’ll be 28. It’s hard to imagine.”
Big things have small beginnings
Days after 9/11, Donkersgoed and some of her Olympic Hills’ neighbors set up a card table at the end of her driveway.
There, they sold lemonade and homemade cookies, making $1,100. It was a way for the participating children to earn money to donate to a school fundraiser benefitting those affected by the tragedy.
Every Sept. 11 since, the lemonade stand has been open for business. To date, it’s raised more than $66,000 for various charities benefitting military veterans.
This year’s earnings will go to the North Star Marine Veterans, supporting disabled veterans with donations and volunteer work. The non-profit earmarked those dollars to the Minnesota Veterans Home in Hastings and the Como Park High School Marine Corps JROTC program.
Donkersgoed and an ever-changing cast of lemonade servers stay true to the stand’s original promise to never forget.
“I remember the day it happened,” Donkersgoed said. “I’m at home, and the kids are in school. Do you go get your kids? Is something terrible going to happen here? No one knew anything. It was a scary time.”
Four generations of helpers
Donkersgoed said the fourth generation of neighborhood children are working at the stand this year.
The original five are adults. “Now we have second-graders involved from the neighborhood,” she said. “There’s a video (on 9/11) I like the parents to watch. And they explain (what happened) to the kids.”
Some of this year’s proceeds will be used to plant a tree and dedicate a memorial bench at the Eden Prairie Veterans Memorial in Purgatory Creek Park.
“We’ll have the Olympic Hills 911 Lemonade Stand name on the bench, so the kids (who have helped) have a place to go,” she said. “On the 10th anniversary, we bought some trees and bricks at the memorial in New York City. A lot of people haven’t been there, and it’s not easy to find.”
The cookies will be plentiful
To prepare for Sept. 11, Donkersgoed has baked a lot of cookies.
This year’s batch is the most ever made for the event. That includes 195 dozen on Sept. 9 alone.
One woman ordered 40 dozen cookies, Donkersgoed said. She plans to hand them out at police and fire stations.
“People at the 10th anniversary drove 50 miles just to get a cookie,” she said. “We’re thinking people will do the same for the 20th. We’re hoping to make a huge difference this year.”
Donkersgoed said this is her final year organizing the event.
After 21 years, she’s hoping someone else steps up.
“I have a great group of friends and neighbors who help,” she said. “It’s a real community event. I’m hoping somebody picks it up. I told them they could have it right at the corner because everybody knows where it’s at. It’s hard to say goodbye, that’s for sure.”
What: The Olympic Hills 9/11 Lemonade Stand
When: 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11
Where: 9497 Painters Ridge
Tax-deductible donations can be made at the lemonade stand or at the North Star Marine Veterans’ website.