By Emily Drooby and Erin DeGregorio
JACKSON HEIGHTS — When twins Connor and Joseph Kelly set out to raise funds to support the hospital that had done so much for their older sister, they knew just how they wanted to help: with an old-fashioned lemonade stand.
What the 11-year-old students at St. Joan of Arc School didn’t know was the end result of their entrepreneurship. Their lemonade sales brought in more than $1,200 in a little more than a month.
Connor and Joseph Kelly persistently asked their parents to permit the venture because they had decided their lemonade proceeds should go to the hospital where older sister Sophie was once a patient — St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside, Queens.
Sophie, who celebrated her 16th birthday in July, has received services from St. Mary’s Hospital since she was 3. She spent a year recovering there, after she underwent spinal fusion surgery in 2017.
“St. Mary’s Hospital for Children has been a real source of support for a very long time for us,” said the children’s mother, Renee. “And Connor and Joe have grown up with a level of compassion that’s unique to them because of their sister.”
Hugh — the children’s father and director of major gifts at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children — echoed his wife’s sentiments, adding: “The experience of having a special needs sibling really helps children be more empathetic and more in touch with other people’s feelings.”
“Having Sophie as a member of our family is a real gift in that regard and in many other regards,” Hugh said.
The Kelly brothers sold more than 200 glasses of lemonade this summer, helping to quench the thirst of local residents as well as passing bicyclists, delivery workers, and motorists.
“We had a goal of $1,000, but we blew past that goal,” Joseph said. “I had a great time.”
Between individual donations that ranged between $1 and $20, the brothers ultimately raised $1,241 for the hospital over the course of five Tuesdays. During their second week, they even received $100 from Michael Fuquay, one of the owners of The Queensboro restaurant — located a few blocks away from where the brothers had set up their table on 34th Avenue.
“I learned this summer that people are very generous,” Connor said, “and it feels good doing good.”
The hospital confirmed that the funds raised by the Kelly brothers will go toward vital programs and services for the children and young adults at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children.
Hugh said he also had the opportunity to spend quality time with his sons through this project. He was delighted to watch the boys interact with their neighbors, spread awareness of St. Mary’s Hospital, and even practice some math and marketing skills in the process.
“They exceeded my expectations, and my wife and I are very proud of the two of them for choosing to honor Sophie and all the kids at St. Mary’s,” he said.
“It was a very special five Tuesdays that I’ll never forget.”
In October, Connor and Joseph will take their fundraising skills to the next level. They plan to help out at St. Mary’s annual Big Hearts Walk and Family Fun Day at the Bronx Zoo, where they hope to raise $10,000.