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7-year-old steps up to raise money for mother's cancer treatments

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Luke Engelman is looking forward to the next weekend that he can set up his lemonade stand once again.On Saturday, Luke Engelman did what any business-savvy 7-year-old would do to beat the summer heat: He set up a lemonade stand in front of his house and quenched people’s thirst for $1 a glass.

But Luke wasn’t raising money for games or toys; he was doing his part to help his mother beat her battle with cancer.

And the community came out in droves.

Luke, who lives on Bull Mountain, raised nearly $4,000 for his mother’s cancer treatments, during a five-hour stint on Saturday.

Luke’s mother, Lisa Engelman, has been fighting follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a slow-growing cancer that is largely resistant to chemotherapy — since 2013.

Her diagnosis came as a shock to the family said Luke’s father, Stephen Engelman.

She coached basketball at Camas High School, ran the Portland marathon twice and qualified for the Boston marathon before she was diagnosed.

The couple has been open with their four children about their mother’s condition and the challenges her treatment brings, Stephen Engelman said.

With bills piling up, the family has been fundraising to pay for the expensive treatments. To date they’ve raised more than $15,000 to help fight her cancer. They need about $58,500.

“Luke is old enough to understand and emotionally aware,” Stephen Engelman said. “We shared with him that it would cost about $60,000 and that we didn’t have that money. He asked ‘What are we going to do?’ Then said he had an idea to have a lemonade stand.”

Stephen Engelman said that neither he nor his wife thought much of the idea at first.

“We didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it,” he said, but they helped their son pass out flyers around the neighborhood and at local businesses to promote the fundraiser, Luke said.

“He was running and running up and down the street passing out flyers,” Stephen said.

Luke said his sales pitch was simple and direct.

“I told people, ‘This is to help my mama because she has cancer,’” Luke recalled. “Everybody I talked to said, ‘We’ll be there.’”

SUBMITTED - Luke, 7, sells lemonade during a fundraiser Aug. 15.Neighbors, church members, friends from college and total strangers flocked to the lemonade stand, Stephen Engelman said.

Luke opened for business at 11 a.m., selling bags of popcorn for $2 and cups of lemonade for $1.

Five hours later, they had raised more than $3,900. They’d run out of popcorn and had made a special trip to the store to buy more lemonade.

“The faith of a child is a beautiful thing,” Stephen Engelman said. “He had faith that through the lemonade stand he could raise the money. As an adult, I was thinking, ‘Oh. That’s nice,’ but honestly, what happened on Saturday blew me away.”

More fundraisers planned

As great as the event was, Stephen Engelman said it almost didn’t happen at all.

The night before the lemonade stand, Stephen, Lisa and three of their four children got the flu.

“We could barely get out of bed and I got a text message from a neighbor who said, ‘Why cancel? We can do it for you.’”

Neighbors stepped in to supervise the sales while Stephen and Lisa rested.

“I was shocked,” Stephen Engelman said. Everyone came together.”

Luke said that people came from as far away as Sherwood and Lake Oswego to visit the small lemonade stand.

“There were more people that I didn’t know than people that I did,” he said.

Luke said he was surprised to see so many people come to support his family.

“I didn’t expect that many would come,” he said. “I thought, maybe 50?”

His father agreed.

“We thought maybe, maybe he’d get 100. It’d be crazy if he got 200. But this just far exceeded my expectations,” he said.

Luke said he had never run a lemonade stand before, but said he thought it would be a good idea.

“That’s probably a rookie record,” his father said.

Luke said he plans to set up his lemonade stand again in coming weeks to continue his fundraising work. The family will announce future lemonade stands or other fundraising events on their blog and on their Facebook page.