Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s signature program with Alex’s Lemonade Stand goes up alongside their new tower
Amid a backdrop of cranes, hard hats and noise that are seen and heard daily at the construction site for Northwestern Mutual's 32-story skyscraper project in downtown Milwaukee, a much smaller structure appeared Friday morning — a lemonade stand.
While a neighborhood-style lemonade stand might seem a little out of place at a fence gate to the busy work area at the end of E. Wisconsin Ave., to Bryce Unger, a construction project manager for the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons development, it was a welcome sight.
That's because the more than $5,000 raised by the lemonade stand in only two hours Friday will contribute to the fight against a personal adversary for his family and many others — childhood cancer.
Among those staffing Alex's Lemonade Stand at the construction site — Alex's is a charity that supports pediatric cancer research — was Unger's 11-year-old son, Bennett, who has been battling a form of leukemia for almost two years.
"Obviously, this is a very personal thing," said Bryce Unger, who works for C.G. Schmidt Inc., one of two general contractors on the project. "And it's exciting to be able to connect the work that I do every day to help raise funds for Alex's Lemonade and childhood cancer."
The lemonade stand also was another example of how Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. is allowing its massive building project to be an educational experience for the community.
Even before ground was broken for the project, the insurance company viewed it as a once-in-a-generation teaching tool for young people ranging from grade-schoolers to college business majors to architecture students.
Aware of Northwestern Mutual's goal of using the construction site as a community asset and that the insurer supports Alex's and has its own initiative to battle childhood cancer, the general contractors on job — Gilbane Building Co. and Schmidt — approached the insurer about putting up an Alex's Lemonade Stand.
"They came to us out of the goodness of their heart and said, 'We've got a story to tell,' and we'd like to be involved," said John Kordsmeier, president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the insurer's philanthropic arm.
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation is named in honor of Alexandra "Alex" Scott, a cancer patient in Connecticut who at age 4 told her mother she wanted to have a lemonade stand — and later did — to raise money to help children overcome cancer. She died in 2004 at age 8, but the organization that evolved from her story said it now has raised more than $100 million from sponsors and donors for childhood cancer research.
In the three years since Northwestern Mutual launched its initiative to combat childhood cancer, it has contributed about $7.2 million to Alex's and other organizations involved in that effort, Kordsmeier said.