By Margie Palmer
Student turns cookie and lemonade stand into successful cancer fundraiser
Sophia Pruden isn’t your average high schooler; in the past eight years, the Patrick Henry High School 10th grader’s signature fundraiser, Sophia’s Cookies for a Cure, has raised more than $40,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
This year, Pruden hopes to raise another $15,000 to help find a cure for blood cancers. She has raised over $13,000 so far.
Her journey down this path began when she was quite young.
“I was seven at the time and I decided to hold a lemonade and cookie stand outside of my house to honor the memory of my aunt Amy,” Pruden said.
Amy McFadin, who was a teacher at Grossmont High School, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) when she was 26. After three rounds of chemo, she was preparing for stem cell collection but unfortunately her body could just not handle the intense chemotherapy. She died from a cerebral hemorrhage just three months after her diagnosis.
Her family went to a bunch of Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fundraisers, Pruden said, but she quickly realized she wanted to do one of her own.
That first year she and her family made “maybe two or three big jugs of lemonade and about 50 dozen cookies.”
Much to her surprise, that cookie and lemonade stand raised nearly $800. Last year, her efforts brought in more than $11,000.
“People kept asking if I planned on keeping it up — that’s how it’s grown. Now it’s grown so big that we need to have an entire street blocked off for it,” she said.
And grown it has.
This year’s plan involves baking roughly 300 dozen cookies and squeezing enough lemons to make close to 60 gallons of lemonade. It will also feature live music, a bounce house, hot dogs and other food, an art table and a raffle table.
“It’s a five-month process. I start squeezing and freezing the lemonade in January,” she said. “All of that is done from scratch. We don’t have a lemon tree so all of the lemons come from donations or from family friends that pick them off their trees.
“My grandfather handles the cookies; he’s retired and baking cookies is his hobby,” she said, adding that his ingredients are donated as well. “Our house pretty much smells amazing all the time.”
San Diego Chapter Leukemia & Lymphoma Society representative Janet Hamada, who currently serves as the local chapter’s Student of the Year Campaign Manager, said Pruden has been an integral part of the success of the San Diego Chapter for many years.
“This year, Sophia was nominated to be part of the Student of the Year campaign, which is a 10-week, blind fundraising competition that takes place between nominated high school leaders who are known for being volunteer-driven, goal-driven and motivated,” she said.
On May 15, Pruden was notified she won the honor, having raised the most money over a six-week period.
“When Sophia’s name came up, we knew she’d be a great fit for this campaign. What’s impressive, is that we also have a man/woman of the year campaign that runs simultaneously and sometimes these students raise more money than the adults.”
Pruden’s neighbors feel that part of her success relates to her being successful in encouraging community members and local businesses to collaborate.
“I am extremely proud of Sophia and honored to be her neighbor. She has become the jewel of our neighborhood,” said Josie Piraino-Chavez. “We all look forward to the yearly block party and are grateful that this little girl who was faced with tragedy brought together a community for a good cause.”
Sophia’s Cookies for a Cure will take place on May 29 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at 6821 Rolando Knolls Drive in La Mesa. For more information on the event, or how to make a tax-deductible donation visit bit.ly/1TzYs8g.
—Margie Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.