One week when I was 6 years old, I forgot to bring my Sunday offering to church. The offering benefited a charity that was working to prevent malaria. Though most experts believe that malaria could be easily cured with the allocation of adequate resources, the disease continues to affect millions in Africa, and it is a leading cause of death among small children.
Feeling guilty about forgetting my weekly donation of a few coins, I decided to sell lemonade to raise funds for the fight against malaria through the charity, Imagine No Malaria. Imagine No Malaria works to end malaria through research, education, diagnosis, vaccines and bed nets. I enlisted the help of a friend, Logan, and set up a lemonade stand outside the main meeting center at the East Ohio Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
That first year, Logan and I raised $600 pouring out glasses of lemonade to thirsty ministers. The lack of air conditioning in the auditorium and our big smiles and baby fat contributed to the success of our lemonade stand. Inspired by our hard work, both Logan’s grandparents and mine agreed to “match” the money we raised through our lemonade stand. As a result, we raised $1,800 for Imagine No Malaria.
The lemonade stand and related fundraising for Imagine No Malaria impacted me in a way I could never have imagined. Our year-round efforts were a big part of my life from kindergarten until high school. I could not remember a time without the lemonade stand being a priority for me. Though the time came to end the lemonade stand (Logan now had facial hair and I was not as cute as I used to be), I learned lessons that have shaped me into the person I am today. Fundraising for Imagine No Malaria taught me that my individual actions make a difference in the world.
The lemonade stand made me realize that if God can take two 6-year-olds and a lemonade stand and turn it into something amazing that helped save thousands of lives, God can truly do anything. We raised more than $100,000 over a 10-year period to provide protective bed nets for 10,000 families.
From an early age, this experience taught me that God is an active participant in my life. I know we learn that in Sunday school, but the way the lemonade stand impacted my life made it evident on a daily basis. The positive impact of hard work is now embedded in my character. My action matters. No challenge is too great. Hard work pays off.
For example, when I was diagnosed with dysgraphia, I answered with the hard work and determination that my experience with Imagine No Malaria taught me. I completed the Wilson program (an Orton-Gillingham principled learning program) and continue to challenge myself in my academics. I never let my disability get in the way of getting the grades that I wanted.
I even challenged myself to do Lincoln-Douglas debate (LD) as an afterschool activity. That forced me to write notes quickly and organize my thoughts into a logical sequence. As a person with dysgraphia, these are my biggest weaknesses. That being said, LD is my favorite part of high school. I love overcoming obstacles, working hard and reaping the reward. I attribute all my success in these areas to the values that this lemonade stand has instilled in me.
Those 10 years of my life, selling lemonade, gave me the confidence to do anything I put my mind to. With every dollar raised, I was motivated to work harder. Similarly, in LD, with every win I am motivated to be better and to practice more. The most important impact of the lemonade stand is, undoubtedly, the thousands of lives this fundraiser saved, but I am extremely grateful for the way this experience shaped me into the person I am today.
Molly McNamara is a high school senior in Bay Village, Ohio.
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