It started with a glass of lemonade and brownie at a lemonade stand. One neighbor stopping by to support a child’s Veteran’s Day lemonade stand in 2010. It has turned into a $34,000 donation several months later. The how’s and whys behind this unlikely alliance are surprising but then again, what is so surprising about two people coming together as a result of shared passion to help improve the lives of children?
It was a blustering Veteran’s Day when the children of Laura Marroquin, Director of Development and Programs at ACT Today! (Autism Care andTreatment Today!) decided that they wanted to do something fun to support the new program at their mom’s charity, helping military children impacted withautism. The kids had first hand experience with the challenges that families face when someone is diagnosed with autism and wanted to raise money for United States service members, active and retired, who have a child with autism. So they gathered some friends, baked some treats and made some lemonade and put out their table at their local park in hopes of raising a $100.
After 3 hours of what appeared to be brisk business, the group of children had raised $112 when a man in a large white truck stopped. Perhaps it was the yelling and shouting of kids with American flags, dressed in red/white & blue that attracted him. And then he learned why the kids were so enthusiastic to share their message. With the help of mom Laura, they told Windell about the 1 in 88 military children diagnosed with autism and about the unique challenges that frequent deployments and relocations and the difficulties encountered by a military child with autism. Windell also learned the disheartening fact that once a service member retires or becomes disabled; his child with autism loses all of their treatment benefits. After giving the children at the lemonade stand a hundred dollar bill that day, Windell had been moved by the plight of these children.
Months later, after learning about an Orange County family whose 9 year old child with autism was no longer able to receive his necessary therapy hours as a result of his dads retirement from the Marine Corps, after serving his country for 21 years, Windell, the president of I Padrini di Antonello’s saw the opportunity to really change the life of a child. After sharing the plight of this child with his membership, I Padrini, in staying true to their mission of making a significant difference to each child they support, donated $10,000 to ensure that Christian would be able to receive therapy for 2 additional years.
And then came Aiden, diagnosed with Aspergers. His father, who was in construction found himself without steady work for 3 years and no longer able to afford the ongoing tutoring Aiden needed to continue to advance both in and out the classroom. I Padrini stepped in again providing Aiden a year of tutoring.
These victories in supporting children in our community were celebrated by Laura and Windell’s families. A demonstration to the children in the families about the importance of helping others in the community simply because it is the right thing to do. It felt great but Windell, passionate about honoring the families who serve our nation, wanted to do more. And he did. One day in February, Windell did something he had never seen done before. He asked his friends of this quiet philanthropic group, I Padrini, to support the ACT Today! for Military Families through a direct donation to the national non-profit. The group said “yes”. After individually pledging to support the group at various levels, the membership of I Padrini had raised $20,000 to support the autistic children of Southern California veterans via the grant program of ACT Today!
The power of a neighborhood lemonade stand unified with individuals who are passionate about improving the lives of children, a perfect combination.
and help military children with autism!