Antonio McKenney, 11, encourages drivers to stop at his family's lemonade stand on Mountain Road in York on Saturday. His mother, Melissa McKenney, has leukemia and is in the intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Antonio's sister, Sofia, his brother, Dominic, and their cousin Vince Lycette have been selling lemonade and iced tea for several weekends to help support Melissa's medical costs. Credit: Ralph Morang | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — Residents are gathering around to support the children of a woman who is hospitalized with leukemia, in the days after the youngsters opened a lemonade stand at their aunt’s Mountain Road home where they are temporarily staying.

York police detective Jamie Robie started a Go Fund Me page, and York Community Services Association is working to make sure aunt Monique Lycette has sufficient food for her own family as well as her sister’s.

Life has not been easy for Dominic, Antonio and Sofia McKenney. The family has lived in the South Portland area, moving between winter rentals and a hotel during periods of homelessness. Mom Melissa McKenney has been battling cancer for more than three years and has been in and out of hospitals several times.

In 2016, she had a bone marrow transplant that 11-year-old Antonio thought might change things.

“And she was OK for while,” he said. But now she’s back in the hospital, for the fourth time, where she’s been for the past two months.

The three children have been divided up this summer between Lycette’s home and her mother’s condominium in Old Orchard Beach. “But my mom is 65 and she doesn’t have any money. So we’re trying to figure out what to do, especially with school starting soon,” Lycette said.

They were also brainstorming ways they could set aside money so when McKenney came out of the hospital, she would have a small nest egg to begin life again. Antonio said his aunt told him “she always did a lemonade stand when she was little. So me and my sister decided to try that out.” Lycette’s son Vince also helped out.

They wrote on a sign that their mother had cancer and they were raising funds for her — and people responded, even on fairly rural Mountain Road.

“People have been so nice,” Lycette said. “They have donated more money than the cost of a glass of lemonade. And they have stopped and talked with the kids. It’s been amazing.”

As of late last week, more than $1,000 had been raised, Antonio said proudly.

“We’re going to get her a mansion!” he said with enthusiasm.

“Well, probably not a mansion,” Lycette said to her nephew. “You’re getting help from people but not enough for a mansion.” She said all funds will go toward helping Melissa and the children move into a rental, “something that’s not expensive because she’s poor and on disability,” and perhaps pay for utilities for a while.

One of the children’s customers told Lycette she should contact York Community Service Association for help with food, and she did. One day last week, Director Michelle Surdoval just showed up at the door, bags of groceries in her hands. “She said, ‘Here you go. Here’s a couple of bags of food.’ She was so nice.”

Meanwhile, Robie became involved when she heard about the lemonade stand from an officer who had stopped by for a drink. “We are looking to support this family in need,” Robie said as she launched a Go Fund Me page last week, under the name Missy McKenney’s Cancer Fight.

Antonio said he’s been unable to see his mom at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she is currently admitted, because children have to be age 12 to qualify for visitation. Dominic, who is 12, has been able to see her but not Antonio or Sofia, who is 7.

“It’s hard because I want to see my mom. I really miss her, and I feel really sad,” he said. But he is keeping his chin up. “She’s been in the hospital three times and I know she’ll pull through the fourth time. You never give up on hope. You never give up on anybody.”

Related: UMaine student has last class after 2-year battle with cancer

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