Highland Park lemonade stand benefits charity

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Gabriella Cooperman has a lemonade stand coming up.

The menu is simple with just chocolate chip heath bar cookies and lemonade for sale. But her operation is quite the opposite.

"The first year it was mom and dad let's make a lemonade stand... and the year after it was can I do it again and again and again," she explained in her kitchen--with a pile of dozens of cookies just beyond reach.

Since 2005, the money has added up. To date, Cooperman's raised over $130,000, all to help the Equestrian Connection.

This hippotherpay center helps everyone from infants to senior citizens overcome obstacles by interacting with horses.

The organization's co-founder Diana Schnell said patients can focus on "a stronger body, better muscle tone, the ability to speak," among other goals.

Schnell works with a team of occupational therapists and psychiatrists to help patients rise above their disabilities.

"It's therapy in disguise... it's a nonclinical setting so they don't realize they're getting therapy," she said.

And it's made an immediate difference for many like Brigette Sargent's three-year-old daughter Priscilla.

Cooperman's younger sister, Danielle, has had similar triumphs.

"It made such a positive impact on my sister and her development that I wanted other children to have that same opportunity," explained Cooperman.

Her aptly named Cookies For Charity have already given more than 20 families Equestrian Connection scholarship funding.

"It's had other people wanting to step up and sponsor therapy as well," said Schnell.

Now Cooperman's lemonade stand has corporate sponsors.

With hundreds of pounds of sugar, chocolate, flour and butter donated, she churns out more than 6,000 cookies each year.

They'll be on sale along with lemonade this weekend.

So stop by the corner of Sheridan Road and Lakeside Place in Highland Park for an irresistibly sweet treat making a sweeter difference.
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