LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Life has handed 9-year-old Angel Reyes of Las Cruces a lemon. So, as the old saying goes, he is making lemonade.
Angel's grandfather, Richard Sanchez, 52, of Albuquerque was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in December. In late January, Richard had a 9-inch tumor removed and has begun six months of chemotherapy. He's self-employed in construction, unable to work and facing mounting medical costs.
Angel is spending his weeklong spring break selling lemonade and frozen treats to raise money to give to his grandfather.
"I talked to my mom and before Christmas we figured it out,” Angel said. “I wanted to make money for him, a hundred, maybe $120, selling lemonade and popsicles."
Chasity Sanchez, Angel's mother and Richard's daughter, said she's been talking to Angel about colon cancer, which is prevalent in the family and has the elder Sanchez worried.
"He is a very macho guy, but he's scared" Chasity said of her father. "The scary part for him is that he lost his sister 11 years ago to the same cancer."
Recently, Angel and his mom went to see the boy's uncle, who helped them build a lemonade stand that very much resembles the "psychiatry" stand in the comic strip "Peanuts." It's painted red and yellow and the signs in front read "Angel's Lemonade," and "Grandpa Cancer Fund."
Hand-painted cancer ribbons adorn the front of Angel's homemade lemonade stand.
"We sent pictures of the stand to my dad," Chasity Sanchez said. "He got emotional when he saw them."
For 50 cents a cup, Angel is selling ice-cold lemonade from a small jug that rests on the stand. Ice pops are available at the same price.
Angel, a third-grade student at Hillrise Elementary School, is a polite young man who calls everyone he meets "sir" or "ma'am."
"Lemonade, lemonade, lemonade," he and couple of his friends chanted as vehicles drove past the apartment he and his mom share. A small canvas canopy was erected over the lemonade stand Wednesday to provide shade for Angel, his friends and his customers. Chasity sits on the front porch of their apartment to make sure the boys behave themselves.
The simplicity of the longstanding tradition of children running a lemonade stand appeared to work like a charm Wednesday. A car drove up to the stand and four people exited. They had seen a Facebook post about Angel's efforts and wanted to help.
They handed Angel $30 and promised they would send others to the lemonade stand.
"People have been giving us money even though they didn't want lemonade," Chasity said. "It's been very, very humbling. We're grateful."
A neighbor asked for two cups, gave the boy $5 and told him to keep the change.
"We raised $48 dollars the first two days, and have done pretty good today (Wednesday)," Chasity said. "I guess the word has been getting out through what I posted on my Facebook page and the GoFundMe page we set up for my dad."
As of Wednesday, $1,170 had been pledged for Richard Sanchez through the GoFundMe website.
"I care a lot about my grandpa. I want to do anything I can to help him," Angel said. "People have been really nice about wanting to help, too. I'll keep doing this as long as I can, if it will help him."
Follow Steve Ramirez on Twitter: @SteveRamirez6