In class discussions, my students often bring up the Westboro Baptist Church as an example of the epitome of hate and the opposite of tolerance. When I told them last year about the Equality House, a rainbow-painted LGBTQ resource center across the street from the WBC compound in Topeka, Kansas, they all but cheered. They thought it was so cool that a group could so outwardly combat the WBC’s messages of hate with peace, love and tolerance.
Unfortunately, school ended before I could tell them about Jayden Sink, the 6-year-old girl who started a pink lemonade stand outside of the Equality House and decided to donate all of the money toward Planting Peace, the group behind the Equality house. Cute, right?
Amazingly, this lemonade stand became much more than cute. As of June 18, she had raised $15,000. Her campaign went viral, she was named one of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s “Foot Soldiers of the Week,” and her last lemonade stand of the season — set up on August 10 – became a global event. More than 70 kids signed up to set up lemonade stands around the world, and all of them promised to donate their funds to Planting Peace’s anti-bullying initiatives.
According to CrowdRise, the site Jayden used to fundraise, Jayden and her pink lemonade posse were able to raise $25,265. Though that is a few thousand dollars short of her $30,000 goal (and you can still donate via the website to help her reach it), the results of her fundraising are nothing short of incredible.
Jayden told the Huffington Post: “We’re giving [the money] to the rainbow house to help people who are sick, and to help people be nice to each other.” How wonderful is that? This whole thing started with a child who didn’t understand how people like the members of the WBC could hate other people. She asked her parents about it, and they told her what was going on, and she wanted to find a simple way to help. Her lemonade stand was so popular that she was able to raise more money than I made yearly at my first full-time teaching job in a matter of months, all because she wanted to spread love and peace and make the world a better place.
Though it is a simple goal and a simple message, there are a few things about this story that warm my heart and give me hope for humanity. First, it took some great parents to explain to their 6-year-old daughter about hate, love and LGBTQ rights. Second, it takes an awesome 6-year-old to come up with an idea to make a difference and follow through with that plan. Third, it takes a stellar community — both local and global — to donate money to make sure not only that a little girl can reach her goals, but that Planting Peace and the Equality House can continue to do their great and important work.
Take that, Westboro Baptist Church!