With lemonade, Lombard girl helps twin brother, others who have brain cancer

  • Jocelyn Aho, 8, right, set up a lemonade stand in Lombard that raised about $1,300 to help children with brain cancer, including her twin brother, Jacob.

    Jocelyn Aho, 8, right, set up a lemonade stand in Lombard that raised about $1,300 to help children with brain cancer, including her twin brother, Jacob. Courtesy of Margaret Schmitt

  • Dr. Rishi Lulla, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, poses with twins Jacob and Jocelyn Aho of Lombard. Lulla helped inspire Jocelyn in her effort to raise money for children with brain cancer, including her brother, by setting up a lemonade stand.

    Dr. Rishi Lulla, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, poses with twins Jacob and Jocelyn Aho of Lombard. Lulla helped inspire Jocelyn in her effort to raise money for children with brain cancer, including her brother, by setting up a lemonade stand. Courtesy of Margaret Schmitt

 
 
Updated 8/24/2018 9:11 PM

We've all probably set up a lemonade stand. Perhaps our parents helped us measure the Country Time lemonade mix and stir it into an ice-cold pitcher of water on a hot summer day. As kids, we were happy to make a few bucks to spend how we wanted.

Eight-year-old Jocelyn Aho also had a lemonade stand this summer at her family's Lombard home. It wasn't to earn some spending money, however, or even to save up for college.

 

No, this lemonade stand has been all about helping her twin brother, Jacob, and other children like him who have brain cancer.

On an afternoon in late July, the lemonade stand brought in about $1,300, which will be donated to the Cameron Can Foundation, an organization that helps children with long-term neurological conditions. She's continuing to raise money for children with brain tumors on an active donation website through Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, where her brother receives treatment. It's already brought in another $1,700.

"She is learning how to be a source of comfort at a very young age. He has learned that he can lean on her for certain things," said their mother, Margaret Schmitt.

After leukemia, brain and spinal cord tumors are the second most common cancers in children, accounting for about one in four cases. More than 4,000 brain and spinal cord tumors are diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The twins hardly know anything different from a world with brain cancer. Jacob was diagnosed at age 3 and has developed hydrocephalus, or accumulation of fluid in the brain. There have been countless doctor's appointments, dozens of surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy and the ever-present focus on his health.

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It's taken away many of the things that children their age usually enjoy. Family bike rides. Visits to the park after school. Even a restful night's sleep -- which is difficult when Jacob awakens with painful headaches.

Still, their parents find the positives and sources of optimism.

"We just try and focus on the things he can do and the things we're able to do with him," Schmitt said.

Because of the location of Jacob's tumor, it's unlikely he'll ever be completely rid of it unless researchers make a breakthrough in treatment, his parents said. Yet, the family is hopeful it can been kept in check.

In the meantime, Jocelyn plans to continue helping her brother and fundraising for children battling brain cancer -- one 50-cent glass of lemonade at a time.

"To see the pride that she has and to help her realize that her age doesn't change what she can or cannot do," Schmitt said. "You don't need to be an adult to help out."

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