No. 1: Abby’s Lemonade

The catalyst: Eight-year-old Abby Enck frequently accompanied her 6-year-old brother, Cameron, born with cerebral palsy, to Lutheran General Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. “It’s hard having a sibling with a disability,” admits Abby’s mother, Becki Enck. “She loves her brother and is such a caring and thoughtful little girl.”

Abby noticed that the other pediatric patients liked to color, but many of the crayons were broken. She wanted to buy a few new 24-count boxes of crayons. Her parents agreed to match any number she could buy herself.

The act: Abby, with help from a friend, decided to raise the money through a lemonade sale, a classic childhood scheme, but they wanted a fresh twist. They searched online for ideas, and Abby loved the idea of creating bottled-water lemonade kits with a packet and homemade tag. “At first I thought I would have to walk her through everything. She surprised me,” her mother recalled about the venture. A little entrepreneur, Abby created a plan, a list of potential customers, wrote emails, and created the slogan: “When life gives you lemons, color!”

In that first summer selling to her Chicago neighbors, she raised enough money to buy 18 boxes of crayons and donated 36 to the hospital. This summer Abby reached a goal of 1,000 crayon boxes.

The ripple: Abby assembled 52 water-bottle lemonade kits and recruited family and friends to sell them for $1 each. The local press publicized Abby’s ambitious fundraising efforts, and the community’s response was sweet.

Nancy Lingway, owner of A Car-Tune in Crystal Lake, sold 24 kits on Abby’s behalf, and with a bit of encouragement, her customers gave a little extra and raised $145. Impressed by Abby’s goodwill, the Miri Likes Art Foundation wrote Abby a check for $150. Abby exceeded her goal, raising a total of $551. She and her parents purchased 1,009 boxes of crayons. With the extra funds, she bought 140 boxes of markers and 125 boxes of colored pencils.

The colorful lessons continue to spread to millions of others. Educational magazine  Weekly Reader wrote about Abby’s project, sharing her message and method with more than 250,000 teachers and 8 million students from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. Other children in the community, including Abby’s Brownie troop, are brainstorming ways to give next summer.

Abby now has a bigger zest to be philanthropic. Next summer, instead of drinks, she wants to diversify into microwave popcorn packages to raise enough money for DVDs. Abby noticed that her brother and other pediatric patients spent a lot of time in their hospital rooms. She wasn’t satisfied with the older DVDs available to them and thought that a few newer titles would keep the kids occupied and lift their spirits.

Besides building business skills, Abby has been learning an important life lesson. “Everyone can make a difference,” she says. Her mom has learned from Abby too, saying, “Children don’t see the obstacles. Adults create obstacles that stop them from achieving their goals.” Or, as Abby puts it, “Everyone can make a difference.”

Donate to Abby’s project.

–Toan Lam