Sydney Gray is 9 years old, and like most kids her age, doesn’t have many financial resources of her own. Earlier this summer Gray opened a sidewalk lemonade stand with the help of her mother and earned $27 for her efforts.
But instead of taking her newfound wealth to the toy store or stuffing it into a piggy bank, Gray told her mother that she wanted to give the money away. All of it.
And to inspire others to be more generous, Gray chronicled her notoriety on You Tube while her mother, Donna, took photos of the lemonade stand. All the proceeds were donated to West Suburban PADS, an organization that exists to serve individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Filmed on a Saturday afternoon in late July, the minute-and-a half Internet clip shows Gray providing lemonade and service with a smile to patrons while the tune “A Spoonful of Sugar” serves as a clever musical backdrop to the video. Gray held the lemonade stand in front of Reich and Becker Real Estate Agency where her mom works as a broker.
After earning $27 during two hours of work, the magnanimous little girl proudly donated her profits.
While the You Tube video and articles like this one direct the focus on Gray, she said her motivation for holding the fundraiser was focused on something else entirely: “helping others.”
“I wanted to do a lemonade stand so my mom and I talked about it,” Gray said. “We set it up with the table and chairs right in front of my mom’s work. It was a fun time. I loved it when people would buy a cup of lemonade and say, ‘Keep the change.’ I chose to donate the money to PADS because I think it’s important to help people.”
Aside from her monetary contribution, Gray also joined her mom in preparing lunches for people who partake in the PADS lunch program.
“I heard about Sydney’s lemonade stand when she and her parents came into the summer lunch program to drop off sack lunches that they prepared,” said West Suburban PADS Shelter Manager Heather Winquist. “Her mother told me about the lemonade stand and Sydney presented me with a check. I think Sydney is truly an inspiration and a good reminder that everyone has something to teach others, no matter what their age. I thought what she did was extremely sincere and that is really refreshing.”
While Donna Gray is very proud of her daughter’s willingness to help others, she’s not altogether surprised.
“Sydney has always been really thoughtful of others,” Donna Gray said. “She’s very mature for her age, and she’s just been a joy for us. We asked her if she wanted to donate half or all of the money she made at the lemonade stand and she said all of it.”
As a new school year begins for Gray, she will be busy at Field Stevenson pursuing her interests in the Challenge program for gifted students. Entering the fourth-grade, she lists math, reading and writing as some of her favorite subjects.
“I enjoy reading and the ‘Nancy Drew Notebooks’ are some of my favorites,” Gray said. “I like to play the guitar a little bit and play tennis. Another thing I like to do is spend time with my best friend, Jessica. Then there are the You Tube videos my mom and me like to make together.”
Other You Tube collaborations between Gray and her mom include family visits to Starved Rock State Park and “Wicked,” the long-running musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago.
No matter how busy she may be with school and other activities, Gray said she will continue to make time for others.
“When we went to PADS, one of the ladies who works there helped us bring in the lunches,” Gray said. “To be able to give them sandwiches and a donation from the lemonade stand made me feel very good inside.”