It's been almost three years since Frazee-Vergas High School senior Cassidy Shipman chose Alex's Lemonade Stand as her platform in a bid to win the 2016 Miss Frazee Outstanding Teen title - yet even after taking the crown and finishing her year-long reign in 2017, both Cassie and her mother Daneele have remained active in the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), hosting fundraisers and raising awareness for the organization that helps fight childhood cancers.
The reason for their continued involvement in ALSF is that the cause is quite close to the hearts of the entire Shipman family: In February 2010, when Cassie was in third grade, she lost her 18-year-old brother Tyler to synovial sarcoma, an extremely rare - and to this day, still incurable - form of childhood cancer.
"When my brother was sick, I was involved with SuperSibs, which offers support and encouragement to kids with siblings who have cancer," said Cassie. "When I decided to run for Miss Frazee Outstanding Teen, I wanted to use that as my platform, but in my research, I discovered that ALSF had bought them out because they didn't have enough funding."
Though SuperSibs is still active as a program of ALSF, Cassie chose to focus her platform on supporting ALSF as a whole.
"After reading about (ALSF founder) Alex Scott's story, I thought it was a really great organization," she explained, "and lemonade stands would be something fun to promote and easy to involve kids, teenagers and adults too."
"It's also one of the highest rated charities in the United States in terms of money raised going back into (cancer) research and family support," Daneele added.
"Such a small percentage of the proceeds go to advertising (and related costs)," Cassie said. "It's very grassroots."
In other words, rather than using the money raised on things like developing posters and fundraising kits, ALSF encourages its supporters to "do their own thing" with regard to getting the word out about their fundraising efforts.
So when she wanted to start raising money, Cassie garnered as much in-kind support as she could.
"OK Lumber donated the wood to build her lemonade stand," Daneele said, "and that's pretty typical...a lot of people make their own posters and flyers, too."
Over the past couple of years, Cassie and Daneele have set up their ALSF booth, dubbed "Cassie's Lemonade Stand," at a variety of local events, including Frazee Hornets athletic events, the community's annual Turkey Days - where the family has hosted the annual Tyler Shipman Memorial Car Show for the past decade - and Oktoberfest celebrations, and even traveling down south to Iowa for a Ronald McDonald House motorcycle ride.
This year, in her final season as a member of the Frazee Fly Girls dance team, Cassie decided to recruit her fellow danceline members to the cause as well.
"Our theme this year is 'Be the Change,' and we're participating in the ALSF Championship Challenge," Cassie said, explaining that it's a challenge where donors can pledge to give a certain amount of money toward the cause for every competition that the Fly Girls win - or simply pledge a set amount toward the campaign.
"Our state competition is Feb. 15-16," Cassie said, so the campaign will remain open until then - and considering that the Fly Girls are the reigning 2018 Class A state champions, they are hoping to be able to defend their crown.
Local residents will be able to see the team in action this coming Friday, Jan. 18, at the annual Fly Girls Home Show, which is set to begin at 7 p.m. in the FHS gymnasium. Cassie's Lemonade Stand will also be set up outside the gym for anyone who would like to learn more about ALSF, or make a pledge toward the campaign. Of course, while they're there, they are also more than welcome to purchase a cup of lemonade, as well as one of Daneele's special lemon-flavored cupcakes, which she created specially for the lemonade stand, with her own "secret recipe."
"I don't make them for anything else," Daneele said.
Because those participating in the Championship Challenge can choose whether to direct their pledges toward fighting a specific type of cancer, helping families with expenses related to fighting the disease, etc., the Fly Girls have decided to donate all of the money they raise toward something called the "Crazy 8 Initiative," an ALSF project which is focused on funding research into the causes and treatment of eight rare forms of childhood cancer - one of which happens to be synovial sarcoma, the disease that took Tyler Shipman from them, nearly a decade ago.
Though the Fly Girls' initial goal of raising $200 has already been far exceeded - as of Friday, $470 had been pledged - Cassie says that donations are still welcome, no matter how large or small.
"You can make a pledge online, or give a check to Cassie or me," Daneele added.
Pledges can be made online via both the Fly Girls' page at ALSF, www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/1589812, and Cassie's personal fundraising page, www.alexslemonade.org/user/294366. According to information available on her page, Cassie has raised nearly $3,800 for ALSF since 2016.
"Would her brother be proud? I think so," Daneele said. "Of course, I'm pretty proud of her too...This girl is going to change the world, 'one cup at a time.'"