The Gold Star Kids Lemonade Stand hosted by youngsters Modie and Mitch Mikuzis outside their Beverly home was already a rousing success.
Dozens of people had swarmed to the kids’ front yard to raise money for the Conner T. Lowry Memorial Fund, named in honor of their cousin, the U.S. Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2012.
But then, Modie, 7, and Mitch, 5, heard the roar of a long procession of motorcycles.
The Marine Corps Veterans Motorcycle Club surprised the kids by supporting their fundraiser, and several members made large donations.
The June 27 event that already felt like a block party became an even more patriotic affair.
“This was one of the most beautiful events I’ve ever been honored to host,” said Amy Mikuzis, Modie and Mitch’s mother. “I’m absolutely grateful that all these people care so much and showed up. It just honors Conner in more profound ways than I ever imagined. The Marine Veterans Motorcycle Club, I can’t thank them enough.”
Lowry, a Beverly native, died on March 1, 2012, at age 24. The foundation was created in his honor to provide scholarships for students at St. John Fisher Elementary School, his alma mater, and donate to the Road Home, a Rush University Medical Center program that aids veterans coping with mental-health issues.
Lowry’s mother, Modie Lavin, is on staff at Road Home, and during June, 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea sponsored Help a Hero, a program in which lawn signs and shirts could be purchased, with proceeds benefitting the Road Home.
Lavin said the lemonade stand, which offered refreshing beverages for $10, tied in perfectly with O’Shea’s fundraiser. She was moved to tears as the motorcycles streamed down 99th Street and Washtenaw Avenue.
And, Lavin’s pride in her son remains apparent.
“He did everything to keep freedom alive, and for that I’m grateful,” she said to the crowd. “The most important thing for anyone is to never forget. So, this is really special.”
After several consecutive nights of heavy rain, the lemonade stand was greeted by warm, sunny weather—something Lavin took as a sign from above.
Amy Mikuzis, Lavin’s younger sister, said the motorcycle club reached out about visiting the home during a lemonade stand the kids could hold.
Mikuzis knew right then her kids couldn’t host an ordinary lemonade stand. Fat Tommy’s restaurant, of Mt. Greenwood, set up its hot dog stand, and Amy and her husband, Jason, displayed red-white-and-blue decorations in their front yard.
The party was on.
“We were just elated,” Mikuzis said. “We were like, ‘Alright, we’re going to make this a big one. ... We’re going to make it epic.’”
Modie and Mitch Mikuzis were born after Lowry’s death, but Amy said she and her husband have told their kids about their brave older cousin, whose nickname would have been “Uncle Con.”
A photo of the fallen U.S. Marine adorned their home’s front door, overlooking the festive fundraiser. Amy Mikuzis deemed the day a success.
“I’m just elated and overjoyed,” Mikuzis said. “I’m overwhelmed with graciousness.”
For more information, visit connertlowrymemorialfund.com.
Video of the motorcycle club arriving at the lemonade stand can be seen here