Bradenton girl raises thousands in donations for St. Jude’s
The drinks at Francesca Friedel’s annual “lemonade stand” are free, but the event still collects thousands of dollars for charity.
In its fourth year, 11-year-old Francesca hopes to keep building on years of success at Saturday’s silent auction. When the fundraiser first began, she raised $3,500, but last year’s auction earned $7,500 for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Her grandfather says this year’s goal is around $10,000.
“It all started when she came to me and said ‘Grandpa, I know you can build me anything, so can you build me a lemonade stand to raise money for St. Jude’s,’” George Friedel explained.
George ended up doing his granddaughter one better and using the relationships he built while playing for the Washington Generals, who are well-known for a lengthy losing streak against the Harlem Globetrotters. He relies on his contacts for memorabilia donations from sports teams like the Golden State Warriors, the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This year, those teams, along with many others, pitched in for Francesca’s annual auction. Notable items included an autographed Kevin Durant jersey, a game-worn Florida State University football jersey and tennis lessons from IMG Academy founder Nick Bollettieri.
“It’s grown really more than I could handle,” Francesca said.
She checked in more than 100 friends and family at the pool house in the Wild Oak Bay for the event. Her best friend, 12-year-old Jordyn Hartman even flew down from Connecticut to lend a hand.
“I want to give a big shoutout to Jordyn for being here because we’re really good friends and we’re like sisters,” Francesca said.
“I’m grateful for Francesca because of how big this is,” Jordyn added. “It’s really nice.”
The event attracted the attention of former Gov. Rick Scott last year. He sent a letter to praising her “hard work to help children dealing with illness and health issues.”
Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue played a role in this year’s auction, as well. Firefighters surprised the girls by arriving in a truck to escort them to the pool area.
According to Francesca’s grandfather, the family will know how much money they’ve raised for St. Jude’s later next week.