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“Get your ice-cold lemonade!” These words reverberated through the air outside the Yale School of Medicine as Claire and Molly Lindenbach tried to garner sales for their “Lemon-Aid” Stand. The unusual sight attracted the attention of students and professionals working in the area.
Only four months earlier, Claire and Molly’s dad, Brett, worked as a seemingly healthy Associate Professor running a lab at Yale School of Medicine.
“My dad studies viruses and tries to find cures for viral diseases,” Molly shared. “At one point, he worked on COVID when it was just starting. He helps other people, which I think makes him pretty awesome.”
On April 16, 2022, Brett visited the emergency room after two weeks of unrelenting headaches that would not respond to over-the-counter pain medication, followed by visual disturbances. His wife, Joanna, encouraged him to get checked out before the family was supposed to leave for their spring break trip the following day. A CT scan revealed a brain tumor, and the medical team admitted him to the hospital.
Less than a week later, Brett’s neurosurgeon removed all of the tumor that could be detected by MRI. Once they learned the tumor was glioblastoma, Brett underwent six weeks of daily chemotherapy and radiation through the Smilow Cancer Hospital.
“The lemonade stand outside the Yale School of Medicine had a double significance to me,” Brett shared. “First, it is where I work, and a lot of friends, colleagues, and students came by. Second, it is where I am being treated, so seeing my caregivers come by and spending some time socializing and supporting me was so great. I had no idea how many people really cared enough to come out and donate to this important cause.”
Molly, 11, and Claire, 8, treasure spending time with their dad — swimming at the local pool in the summer, building snowmen in the winter, and staying in to watch a movie throughout the year. It was no surprise that the girls wanted to do something to support their dad following his surgery and diagnosis.
“My dad is the best,” Claire said. “I love everything about him.”
With the help of their aunt Lindsay, who was in town to help while her brother received treatment, the girls decided to start a fundraiser in their dad’s honor.
“I’m a teacher, so I really value getting students or young people involved in advocacy and issues that matter to them,” Lindsay said. “I thought it would be a great thing for me to help Molly and Claire.”
The two girls surprised their dad on his 54th birthday with the news that they would raise money for the National Brain Tumor Society by selling lemonade at a series of stands in the New Haven area.
“On his birthday, he had a Zoom call with our family,” Molly explained. “Claire and I walked out holding the sign, held it up really high, and told him about it. He thought it was really sweet.”
The generous gesture by his daughters left quite an impression on their dad.
“I was truly overjoyed because it was a way for them to show their love, but in a way that wasn’t directly benefiting me,” Brett said. “The biggest thing was that it empowered my daughters so that they could contribute to our family’s fight against brain cancer. They are active participants, not nervous observers.”
The first stand took place at the family’s home in June. Five pop-up stands, one satellite stand, and many online donations later, the “Lemon-Aid” Stand effort has raised more than $21,000 from over 400 donors.
“I think it’s very indicative of who Brett is,” Lindsay said. “He matters so much to so many people. It’s an astounding amount for it being a lemonade stand, but it’s also on par with the amount of people that really want to support him.”
To keep their five lemonade stands running, the family frequently visited Costco to obtain more than 600 lemons and 80 cups of sugar.
“I’m just so proud of Claire and Molly — the amount of effort they both put into it, from squeezing the lemons by hand to being engaged and standing there every day,” Lindsay said. “They’re really being role models for what it means to do something positive when faced with a difficult situation.”
The Lindenbach family has temporarily paused the lemonade stands while Molly is away at summer camp, but they plan to restart their fundraising before school resumes.
“We’ve made some great memories,” Brett shared. “Right now, I’m all about making new memories with people that I love.”
Patients with brain tumors and their families are waiting for better treatments, a better quality of life, and cures. Only by working together can the brain tumor community disrupt the status quo and invest in promising treatments and technology to achieve these life-saving outcomes.
“There were many people at the stands who had been directly impacted by brain tumors — either they were going through treatment themselves, or they knew someone who had been going through treatment,” Lindsay said. “They were really just so thankful that we were out there doing this for the National Brain Tumor Society.”
Make a gift today to support the Lindenbach family’s “Lemon-Aid” Stand fundraising efforts. Donations of all sizes help to advance our mission and fuel the breakthroughs we need to find a cure.
“It’s a really big deal to me,” 11-year-old Molly said. “I just like to know that I’m helping out and helping people.”