Monday’s sweltering conditions with highs in the 90s and heat indices at 100 were just fine with Katie Murray.

“It means we can sell more lemonade,” she said amid dozens of volunteers and patrons under the pavilion at the Guthrie Green downtown.

Murray was known as Katie Eller when she started a campaign to sell lemonade to raise money for the homeless when she was 10 years old.

For seven years, from 1994 to 2000, Lemon-Aid managed to raise more than $350,000, strictly from the proceeds of lemonade stands set up throughout Tulsa each Labor Day. The project ended when Eller left Tulsa to attend college.

This weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the start of that campaign, and Murray returned to Tulsa to hold the event again.

Starting Thursday and running through Monday, about 60 stands with volunteers from various groups — including Girl Scouts, churches, PTAs and students — sold lemonade throughout town.

“Every single stand has doubled” what was anticipated, Murray said. “We had some stands that raised $360.”

Although a final tally of the amount raised was not available Monday evening, and “we are still eagerly anticipating the reports back from many of our stand volunteers, we can say without a doubt the event was a success,” she said Monday evening in an email.

She said a combination of using social media, talking about the event and reaching out to various groups, such as her sorority and her husband’s fraternity, led to a big volunteer turnout.

All the money raised will go to the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless.

The Lemon-Aid Project hosted its 25th anniversary celebration Monday at the Guthrie Green, 101 E. Reconciliation Way, with live music, arts and crafts, and lots of lemonade.

Murray estimated that about 750 people attended.

“That doesn’t include the hundreds of people that were touched throughout the weekend at our stands across the city. We believe we have surpassed our goals and hope to bring Lemon-Aid back again for LA2020.”

She said plans are already in the works to hold the event again.

“We hope we can build on it for next year,” she said.

The Lemon-Aid Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and the relaunch of the event in Tulsa is the beginning of what Murray said she hopes will become a nationwide fundraising phenomenon.

“The biggest thing is awareness,” she said earlier. “A simple idea can make a big difference.”

Murray now lives with her husband and two young children in Palo Alto, California, where she runs a public relations firm that works with a number of technology companies.

But she still has family in Tulsa and visits often, she said.

Asked how the city has changed since she began her campaign 25 years ago, she said, “Oh, my gosh. It’s absolutely amazing.

“The downtown … but mainly it’s the coming together of the community.”

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Michael Dekker


Twitter: @michaeldekkerTW

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