Rita’s Italian Ice hired a 12-year-old as its CEO on Thursday, and by all accounts she exceeded expectations.
After all, Bridget Smith is used to adversity — she’s a cancer survivor.
Her tenure lasted only a day, but Smith learned about all aspects of the company alongside Rita’s usual CEO, Jeff Moody, from sitting in on meetings to learning how to run a franchise.
From Rita’s headquarters in Trevose, Smith and Moody announced the launch of this year’s Paper Lemon Fundraiser, which benefits Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for pediatric cancer research.
“This is the third year we’ve done this, the CEO of the day … It’s my favorite day of the year,” Moody said, joking that it’s nice to have the day off. “Her story is remarkable, to overcome this at such a young age.”
Smith was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was 3 years old. The mass originated in her spinal cord and progressed into her spinal canal as well as attached itself to her abdomen. She endured several failed chemotherapy cycles and two major surgeries in a battle that lasted five years. In April 2012, doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said her cancer was in remission, and she has been cancer-free since.
Smith lives in Spring Lake, New Jersey, but traveled to Bucks County for the day to help a cause she identifies with so closely.
“I just love raising money for childhood cancer, so they don’t have to go through what I went through,” she said.
She also spent time at Rita’s Feasterville location on Bridgetown Pike in the afternoon, serving customers during the fundraiser. In Rita’s Paper Lemon Fundraiser, each location sells paper lemons to customers for $1. Guests personalize the lemons and post them on the store’s “Wall of Hope.”
Over the past 11 years of this fundraiser, Moody said, Rita’s has raised $4.5 million for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. This year, he hopes they can eclipse $5 million. The fundraiser runs through July 25.
At the store, Smith impressed the Rita’s staff, filling orders and collecting paper lemons.
“She was scooping ice with the best of them after only a few lessons,” Moody said.
Her family was there to support her as well.
“It’s great to see Bridget get involved with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Rita’s,” said Bridget’s mother, Marg Smith. “She really wants to help other kids.”