Dear Zaharis Families,
We’ve all passed by them. While I’m almost always “too busy” to stop, I enjoy watching the little faces light-up when I do. I sometimes ask, “What are you going to do with the money you earn?” Of course, the “lemonade stand” is part of Americana.
I hope they don’t fade away like drive-in movies, newspaper boys and Twinkies have. Not that I really ever liked Twinkies. I just felt like part of our culture died the day the plant was closed down.
The lemonade stand has been resurrected by the first-graders at Zaharis School. If you were to ask them, “What are you going to do with the money you earn?” you might be surprised by their response. Selling lemonade at special school events and on Fridays after school has led to donations earmarked for the Phoenix Zoo, the United Food Bank and No Kid Hungry. All total, the first graders have contributed about $1,100 to philanthropic causes.
Yesterday (April 18) Academy Award winning actor, author and musician, Jeff Bridges, visited Zaharis to join forces with our little social scientists. It was a moment we won’t soon forget. He pulled into the parking lot in an older model Jeep Cherokee and without an entourage. He expressed a genuine interest in Zaharis and was surprised to discover that it wasn’t a private school. He greeted the office staff like they were old friends.
He wanted to know all about the history of the lemonade stand and the inspiration behind it. He played with our first graders and sang songs with them. He picked-up a guitar, along with one of his band members, and led us all in a chorus of What a Little Bit of Love Can Do—a song he wrote that captures the spirit of what the first graders are about. He agreed to an interview with one of our first graders. He offered messages of turning outward to help take on the No Kid Hungry campaign for which he serves as international spokesman.
He accepted a check for $414.85. He commented on how it’s not typical for schools to be giving money away these days. He left his imprint upon the school for all to see by signing our wall and thanking us “for making him a Soaring Eagle for life.” Later while performing at the Mesa Arts Center, Jeff told the story of his visit to Zaharis and then proceeded to dedicate the entire night's concert to the "kids of Zaharis."
Jeff Bridges is so much more than an actor. He is a difference-maker who is not much unlike the first graders he now associates with. I’m going to visit the lemonade stand.