DIXON – Life gave 200 fourth-graders lemons Friday, and they had no intention of making lemonade.
Instead, the eight classes of Madison Elementary School students bit right into the tart yellow wedges sitting before them, and a good majority didn't stop there – they wanted more.
"It wasn't sour for me; I'm used to eating lemons a lot," 10-year-old Clark Bonnewell said after eating the pulp from a couple wedges.
Others, however, passed on seconds with a grimace while waiting for the sourness to dissipate.
"I thought it was really sour, so I didn't even finish one, but I thought it was for a good cause," Annie McGrail, 10, said.
The students participated in the Leukemia Lemon Challenge, an initiative that started about 2 years ago to raise awareness of the disease and funds for 3-year-old Greer Bond, of Dixon, who was diagnosed in April 2015.
Those hesitant to chomp down on the citrus could find encouragement from Chrissy Monson as she casually bit into a whole lemon like it was an apple.
The recent Northern Illinois University graduate started the lemon challenge after meeting Greer and her parents, Courtney and Kel, which helped bring a new perspective to her own ailments.
Monson, of Albert Lea, Minnesota, went to NIU to run track and cross country, but she started to feel ill shortly after arriving and was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease about 3 years ago.
"I had to stop running track and cross country, and it was a really hard process for me," she said. "After I met with Greer, though, my heart just broke for her, and I felt humbled and blessed that at least I got to do something I was passionate about for a while."
Organizing the event with Monson was Alan Clemens, Dixon resident and NIU professor, and both are hoping that video they took of the students accepting the lemon challenge will go viral, much like the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS.
Lilah Sullivan, 9, said she plans to ask others to step up to the lemon challenge, and she wants to see if they are as surprised as she was when eating the lemon.
"All of us need something to believe in," Clemens said. "It's a great moment for the kids, and it's for a great cause."
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
Those wanting to participate in the Leukemia Lemon Challenge are encouraged to post a video on social media of them eating the lemon and passing the challenge on to others.
Go to gofundme.com/greerbondstrongllc or find the Greer Bond Leukemia Lemon Challenge on Facebook for more information.