Here’s a sign of summer that almost every person who grew up in America can relate to: lemonade stands.

When I was growing up, no summer was complete without at least one lemonade-selling venture. With dreams of arcade games and quarter-machine candy in our heads, my friends and I would gather poster boards, markers, folding chairs and Dixie cups. Then we would set out to sell as many 25-cent cups of freshly squeezed — er, freshly mixed — lemonade as possible.

You probably can recall some version of this childhood memory from your own past. If so, you remember how incredibly awesome it felt when somebody stopped at your stand to purchase a 3-ounce portion of liquid refreshment.

It was always satisfying to watch the pile of quarters get bigger as the amount of lemonade in the pitcher got smaller. I could barely contain my excitement when we received the occasional tip from one of our especially generous customers.

At the end of the day, we would evenly divide up our profit. I think the most I made was six or seven dollars, but it wasn’t the bottom line that was important. It was the lesson that hard work pays off.

I was scrolling down the Missoulian’s homepage Wednesday morning when I came across a short letter to the editor encouraging Missoula residents to take the time to visit local lemonade stands.

The author of the letter made the point that it is important to support the efforts of these kids because they eventually will become the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders. It’s important, she wrote, to show them the value of hard work and initiative. I couldn’t agree more.

So, if you happen to see a lemonade stand as you’re driving around town, reach into your cup holder and grab some of that change that you’ve been meaning to get rid of anyway. You’ll be glad you did.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.