Two days before her first birthday, Alexandra ("Alex") Scott was diagnosed with an aggressive form of childhood cancer. Enduring chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, the little girl displayed courage and a positive outlook, captivating everyone around her. That alone would be an inspiring story. But that was not all that happened.
In 2000, when she was just four years old, Alex told her parents she wanted to raise money for cancer research. She chose a time-honored kid's project-a front-yard lemonade stand-but unlike most lemonade stands, she raised $2,000 in a single day. Soon, Alex's friends joined in to help, opening lemonade stands in her name. Word spread about Alex's dream of raising $1 million for pediatric cancer research. On June 12, 2004, she raised nearly $40,000 in three hours at her lemonade stand, while supporters nationwide raised $220,000 in one day at hundreds of Alex's Lemonade Stands nationwide. With additional donations from corporate sponsors, Alex was more than halfway to her goal of $1 million.
Just a few weeks later, on July 29, 2004, Alex's family gathered at her Philadelphia-area home to say goodbye. The eight-year-old girl had finally lost her heroic battle with cancer.
But even that was not the end of the story. Alex Scott was gone, but her lemonade stand and her dream lived on. Friends continued to work to achieve Alex's goal. And even as she was dying, another story was beginning, which will forever be linked to hers.
The same day, a young Thoroughbred horse won his first major race, the Sanford Stakes in Saratoga Springs, New York. His name was Alex, too: Afleet Alex. It was clear from his impressive victory that Afleet Alex was no ordinary racehorse, but a potential champion. Gifted with unusual stamina, intelligence, and athletic grace, the plucky little horse won races, a growing number of fans, and media attention.
Afleet Alex knew what it was like to fight for life. At birth, he was given little chance of survival when his mother was unable to produce milk, depriving him of critical colostrum needed to fight infection. For two weeks he was bottle-fed by breeder John Silvertand's 9-year-old daughter Lauren. Against the odds, Afleet Alex survived and grew strong. Overlooked by racing's elite, he was purchased for a bargain price by a group of five Philadelphia friends buying their very first racehorse.
When Afleet Alex's career took off, no one was more excited than Silvertand. Diagnosed with colon cancer, and given only two months to live, Silvertand elected to discontinue chemotherapy and leave it "in God's hands" so that he could fully enjoy Afleet Alex's triumphs. "The horse keeps me going," Silvertand told the Associated Press. "I truly believe he's helping me in my battle." Silvertand has now survived nearly three years since his diagnosis.
That in itself would be an inspiring story. But the story did not end there.
When the owners of Afleet Alex heard about Alex Scott and her lemonade stand, they thought of their friend John Silvertand and his fight against cancer, and knew right away that they wanted to use the star colt's media power to benefit the cause of cancer research. Chuck Zacney, the managing partner, announced that every time Afleet Alex did well in a race, they would donate a portion of his earnings to Alex's Lemonade Stand. They also donated profits from the sale of Afleet Alex gear, and used the colt's popular website and media interviews to promote Alex's Lemonade Stand. They even convinced the racetracks where Afleet Alex was appearing to sponsor Alex's Lemonade Stands. The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes all featured Alex's Lemonade Stands, spotlighted by NBC and ESPN. On Belmont Stakes Day, 30 racetracks throughout the U.S. held stands in her name, raising tens of thousands of dollars.
Helped by Afleet Alex, Alex's Lemonade Stand for Pediatric Cancer Research has now raised more than $2 million and has funded dozens of research grants. But even that is not the end of the story.
In his racing career, Afleet Alex faced many obstacles. Two heart-breakingly narrow losses and a lung infection raised doubts about his future. But his team did not give up. Afleet Alex trained even harder, running more than twice as far every day as other racehorses. After he fought back to a stunning eight-length victory in the Arkansas Derby, Liz Scott, Alex Scott's mother, compared him to her daughter. "Alex was a fighter and determined," she said, "and watching this horse run definitely reminds me of her, with the same competitive, always-do-your-best attitude."