By MERI R. KENNEDY
On July 3, just prior to the Fourth of July festivities, young Olivia VanPatten, 9, had already made her plans for that day – to run a lemonade stand to benefit Pets for Patriots, which finds and connects servicemen and women with pets for companionship.
Olivia and her friend Amani Jackson, 10, worked throughout the day to meet the demands of customers.
“Olivia had been asking to do a lemonade stand for about a year with her friends. This past Memorial Day, when she woke up, she asked if we could go buy American flags and hand them out to people as they drove by the house. That turned into a lemonade stand while handing out American flags,” said her mom, Liz VanPatten.
The Pets for Patriots organization creates unique opportunities for members of the military community to save a life by honorably adopting homeless adult dogs and cats. According to its website, the group partners with veterinarians to provide a discount for the care of adopted pets.
“I wanted to donate the money to Pets for Patriots because I love all kinds of animals and wanted to do something nice for them and for soldiers coming back from war,” Olivia said.
A highlight of the day for the two young girls was when Mayor Allan Fung stopped by for some lemonade and to support the cause.
The day of the lemonade stand, many people came out to participate in the fundraiser and enjoy some lemonade from Munroe Dairy, which came in blueberry, raspberry and lemon flavors. According to the VanPatten family, after reading about the lemonade stand in the Cranston Herald, the dairy decided to donate all the lemonade for Olivia to sell. In total, Olivia raised $360 for Pets for Patriots.
“Thanks to the Cranston Herald running the story in their column, the milkman for our neighborhood read it and stopped by our house asking if he could donate all of the lemonade,” Liz said.
Everyone who bought lemonade at 50 cents a cup also received a small American flag just in time for the holiday. Not one person asked for change from their donation.
“I had an idea about giving out American flags so people could celebrate the holiday. I kept asking my parents to do a lemonade stand and my mom told me I could, if I donated the money,” Oliva said.
“Over the winter, Olivia took an extra pencil box from school and in marker wrote, ‘For the animals.’ She wanted to start raising money to give to an animal shelter, and when she asked to do the lemonade stand, the light bulb just went off. My brother, Chris Palumbo, just retired from the Army in February after a 23-year career, and Olivia has seen him deployed many times since she was born. She loves her Uncle Chris, and she loves animals. It was a perfect combination,” Liz said.
She continued: “Olivia has been around fundraising a lot, as I teach a fundraising and philanthropy course at Johnson & Wales University. Last year, my students and I raised $13,000 for a young boy in Massachusetts with a terminal illness. Olivia was there every step of the way, and even sold some bracelets to raise money for him to her classmates. She understands the importance of giving back when you are fortunate, and I hope she continues on with this as she gets older. We are so proud of her.”