The city of Philadelphia has gotten a bad rap in recent history; it's a city associated with a high crime rate, a city left in the shadows of nearby New York City, and heck, even the tactics of our parking enforcement are displayed on the popular A&E show Parking Wars. For a city recognized for it's "love," something defined as a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; some visitors and even residents are wondering: where exactly is the love?
It's been 10 years since my family moved to Philly, after traveling back and forth from our home in Connecticut for our daughter Alex's cancer treatments. Though the first thing that Philadelphia offered to us may not have been love, it was something equally important -- it was hope; hope that Alex would have more time to enjoy her young life and even the hope that she may one day live cancer-free. It was soon after our arrival that Alex set up her first lemonade stand in the City of Neighborhoods to help find a cure for all kids with cancer. It was here in Philadelphia that her dream would take root and grow to become Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a national nonprofit which continues her quest for cures.
Though Alex lost her life to childhood cancer in 2004 and she hasn't graced the city of Philadelphia with her physical presence for eight years, Alex was everywhere this past week -- the love of the city evident in the lemonade stands that lined the streets, on the television and radio airwaves and in a small structure that started to take shape at the National Constitution Center. At first, it was just a few bricks, and I'm sure it had many people scratching their heads wondering what a bunch of brightly colored LEGOs (how cool is that!) would transform into. Starting on Thursday and spanning through Saturday, residents of Philadelphia and visitors from all over the world helped to build the world's largest LEGO lemonade stand and as they played with interlocking plastic bricks, they were also making a difference in the lives of kids with cancer.
Click through the slideshow to see photos of the building of the world's largest LEGO lemonade stand. Story continues below.
So LEGO showed their love in the city of Philadelphia, but does that prove that it's the city that loves you back? Any doubt was squashed on June 12 when Philadelphia's powerhouse culinary team of Marc Vetri, Jeff Benjamin and Jeff Michaud hosted their Great Chefs Event. It was Alex's goal in 2004 to raise $1 million with the help of volunteers across the country, and Marc, Jeff and Jeff followed Alex's lead by aiming high - attempting to raise $1 million in just one night. So how would they do it? Echoing Alex, they said, "if our friends help us, I think we can do it," and off they went enlisting the help of stars like Tom Colicchio, Jose Garces, Masaharu Morimoto, Suzanne Goin, Jonathan Waxman and more than 40 of the world's top chefs to donate their time and talents and cook for childhood cancer cures. With a stunning silent and enthralling live auction to boot, the event easily surpassed the goal and filled a few stomachs in the process.
So what does all of this mean for the city of Philadelphia? It means that like all stories, there are two sides. There are negatives and positives (I'll admit, the sports teams aren't half bad), but one thing is for sure, the city has embraced and loved my daughter Alex and her cause. They stood beside her during her life and now set the standard for other cities across the country to follow in the battle against childhood cancer. A City of Brotherly (and Sisterly!) Love for sure, and I think I am a fair judge in this case, after all, what deeper love is there than the love of a parent for a child.