Lemonade is the buzzword this week after singer Beyonce released her album, but another headline-grabbing story is how a nine-year-old boy is using lemonade to secure a permanent home.
Missouri third grader Tristan Jacobson set up shop outside of his home this weekend selling $1 glasses of lemonade and cookies. He wasn’t raising money to buy a bike or send the proceeds overseas to feed impoverished kids, but to save money for adoption.
Donnie Davis, his legal guardian, organized a yard sale with the goal of raising some money to cover the projected legal fees of $10,000. The response was overwhelming. From the yard sale they raised $7,100 most of which was from Tristan’s lemonade stand. They have raised more than $17,000 online thanks to the generous gifts of regular people touched by Tristan and his family. Their online fundraising goals was only $5,000.
Davis has been looking out for Tristan since he was three months old. Her abusive ex-husband fathered Tristan with an underage teenage girl while they were married. Instead of getting into a Jerry Springer-style brawl with the other woman, Davis watched out for her and Tristan. After Tristan was born, Davis remained in his life offering a safe place whenever hard times hit. When his mother got hooked on drugs and became a prostitute to fund her addiction, Tristan found himself at the hands of abusive boyfriends and witnessing what no child should ever be exposed to. Davis recounts the heart-breaking story Tristan experienced on their YouCaring.com profile:
So from looking outside in, everything looked legit. She also, had another child and was providing for that child just fine. So Tristan went with her full time. I still kept in close contact with his life. He came and hung out with us on the holidays and the weekends. I talked to him as much as I could and spent as much time as I could.
Shortly before he turned 4, I could notice a huge difference in his physical appearance, clothes being dirty and not fitting and in her activity in both of her boys life. For the next year, it got worse and worse. Eventually the youngest dad had taken him out of her care and began raising him. I spoke to her several times about Tristan coming back with us. Her words was “If anyone tries to take Tristan, I will kill him and myself”. Long story short, we found out that she had been doing drugs and had been prostituting to get money for drugs. Tristan was subjected to all of this. He was in the same room as her when the Methamphetamine, she would take him with her when she would meet men for sex, she would allow her multiple boyfriends to beat on him, she would leave him alone in her apartment, he was always in his little brothers clothes, they hadn’t been washed, he witnessed sexual acts between her and other woman and men. He was locked in a dark room at night and had to listen to her being beat by the multiple boyfriends. This is just a small listing of all of the abuse that he went thru.
The good news is that, following custody battles, Tristan has been with Davis and her new loving husband for three years and the impact for him of a stable (two-parent) home is apparent:
"She will be my parent," he said, motioning to Donnie Davis, who was watching from the front porch. "I'm happy because I have a new mom who loves me."
Tristan attends Williams Elementary School and said he's having no trouble keeping track of money and making proper change for his customers.
Math, after all, is his favorite subject.
"I'm in fractions now," he said proudly. "It's easy for me."
"It means everything. He is absolutely our son. He is in our hearts," she said. "This is more for reassurance for him, knowing that he has his forever family and he has our name."
In hard times people learn to be resourceful to get by. The Davis family did that. Before organizing the yard sales, they downgraded their cell phones, internet and tv plans. They also cancelled summer vacation plans.
American entrepreneurship and philanthropy are the big heroes in this story though. The family was denied any public aid to help with adoption costs, but the generosity of Americans stepped in to exceed the need. Americans are the most generous nation in the world by far giving away over $300 million each year to various causes. When our families, neighbors, communities, or even perfect strangers need help we don’t wait for a politician to create a budget line item, we step in to help.
Tristan gets to learn what it means to be a businessman and what the free market can do. In many other countries, this tale wouldn’t end the same way. He need not become a statistic or lost in the system, but has hope for a bright future. (Let’s just hope that no local regulators pop out of the bushes and try to shut him down for not complying with some arcane regulations.)