MOREHEAD CITY — One 6-year-old girl has proven a little entrepreneurship can make a big impact when it’s for a good cause.
Lilly Anderson, 6, decided to set up a lemonade stand during the N.C. Seafood Festival to raise money to help students at Ocracoke School, which was severely damaged by flooding during Hurricane Dorian in September.
Lilly, a first-grader at Tiller School in Beaufort, had hoped to raise, at most, $100 when her parents, Rusty and Kim Anderson, set up her stand Oct. 5-6 on Shepard Street. As word spread during the festival and on Facebook, the young entrepreneur ended up raising $1,039.90 by the end of the festival.
That was only the beginning. Mr. Anderson posted photos of Lilly selling lemonade on his company’s Facebook page. Thanks to additional donations from realtors and others who saw the post, Lilly raised $8,718.90.
“I was excited because the school got flooded and lost books. I wanted to help them get the supplies and things they need,” Lilly said Monday.
The first-grader also got to deliver the check personally to the school’s principal, Leslie Cole, and visit the school’s campuses Oct. 17. She was met with a sort of hero’s welcome by Ocracoke students, staff and administration.
“They made me a big sign that said thank you and gave me cards,” Lilly said. “I was nervous.”
Ms. Cole gave Lilly a tour of the three campuses where students are currently split up for classes because most of the Ocracoke School main campus remains closed for repairs.
Students in pre-K through first grade are attending classes at Ocracoke Childcare Center. Grades two through five are meeting in the second story of the main campus building because that area wasn’t flooded. Grades six through 12 are meeting at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching Center on the island.
With all of the challenges Ms. Cole and her students are facing, she said Lilly’s help for the school lifted everyone’s spirits.
“I was just blown away and so proud of her,” Ms. Cole said in a telephone interview Tuesday with the News-Times. “We were just absolutely amazed she was able to raise that amount of money.”
During her visit, Lilly not only met students and teachers, but also got to chat with Hyde County Schools Superintendent Steve Basnight, who talked to Lilly on the phone because he couldn’t personally attend the day of her trip.
“I can’t say enough about her. What a fantastic young lady,” Mr. Basnight said during a telephone interview Tuesday with the News-Times. “What a wonderful future that young lady has ahead of her.
“It is so humbling to see the amount of support we are receiving from people, but when something like this happens you have to stop and say wow,” Mr. Basnight continued. “I’m a dad and I hope I can instill the values that Lilly has into (my children). I want them to be like Lilly.”
No one could be prouder of Lilly than her parents. Mr. Anderson said his daughter got the idea for raising money for Ocracoke School after overhearing a conversation he and his wife were having about damage to the island and school. Mr. Anderson, who owns Anderson Plumbing and Sewer in Morehead City, had been asked to do plumbing repair work on the island. He and his family have also vacationed for years on Ocracoke and developed friendships there.
“When she heard us talking about Ocracoke she kept asking questions about the school,” Mr. Anderson said Monday. “She had been asking for sometime if she could set up a lemonade stand because her older sister used to sell lemonade when she was her age. Her original intent had been to sell lemonade to raise money for rides during the Seafood Festival. But when she kept asking questions about the school, her mom asked her if she would like to donate the money to the school instead and she immediately said yes.”
Mr. Anderson admitted when he set up the lemonade stand for his daughter, he never expected her to raise the amount she did. He put a sign on the stand that funds raised would go to Ocracoke School.
“I thought she would stay there a couple of hours and maybe raise a $100, then get bored and want to play. But she stayed at that stand on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. She raised over $700 just on Saturday,” Mr. Anderson said.
After he posted on his Facebook page, people began sharing the posts.
“We had people contacting us saying they wanted to give,” he said. “On Sunday she was only out there a couple of hours and raised over $300. By the end of the weekend she had more than $1,000.”
Because Mr. Anderson has rental properties and does work for realtors, he said realtors wanted to donate to the effort. That’s when the amount shot up past $8,000.
“I am so proud of her,” Mr. Anderson said. “She stuck with it.”
The proud dad was taking a trip to Ocracoke Oct. 17 to assess jobs and decided to take his daughter along to give the check to the school.
“After all she did, she needed to be the one to deliver the check,” he said. “A friend of ours who owns the Sign Shop created a large check replica for her to take.”
As to what’s in store for this young entrepreneur, her mother said Lilly has already received two requests about helping nonprofits with their fundraisers.
For those interested in helping students at Ocracoke School, Ms. Cole said the school doesn’t need more books or supplies, but monetary donations are needed.
“We don’t have space to store anything else,” she said. “Monetary donations will help us because we still don’t know what all we lost and we are going to need things as we go along,” Ms. Cole said. “We have no idea when we will be able to return to our school building. I can guarantee you that 100 percent of the money we receive is going to the teachers and students.”
Ms. Cole further thanked the Andersons and other county residents who continue to support Ocracoke residents and the school.
“The support we’ve received from your county has been amazing,” Ms. Cole said. “We will continue to pay it forward and we’ll be there to help you next time. We know you all have gone through this, too.”
Those wanting to send monetary donations to help the school can write checks payable to Ocracoke School and send them to Hyde County Schools, Ocracoke School Donations, P.O. Box 217, Swan Quarter, NC 27885.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.