Compassion to action, inspiration from a 7-year-old

February 17, 2012
The story below was shared by Tara Lynch,  a member of the Program and Strategic Partnerships team at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Jasper's aunt. Like any seven-year-old, Jasper likes to play basketball, build Legos and watch a whole lot of Cartoon Network. He's also got a mischievous streak and appreciates things a bit on the silly side. For most of this past summer, his mother Erin began a tradition of reading a nightly newspaper story at the dinner table in order to foster a connection with the world and events beyond his own community. After an endless stream of articles about high oil prices, the U.S. debt ceiling and power outages, one hit Jasper above all others: The stories and faces of starving children in the Horn of Africa. He knew he needed to help.

Jasper in front of his lemonade stand

Like any kid, his heart broke when he saw the suffering of children his own age or younger. But Jasper knew he wanted to do more than feel bad. So Jasper enlisted his brother Beckett, 9, and bugged his mom Erin to set up a lemonade stand to raise money to see if—even though he was only about to start the second grade—he could help UNICEF achieve its goal of zero children in hunger. In August, Jasper spent about four hours in 90-plus degree heat pouring lemonade for tourists and passing shoppers at a stand in the center of his hometown in New Jersey, to raise money and awareness about UNICEF and its programs for children in the Horn. He raised over $300 that day, which was matched by his father’s employer . "It's not fair if one kid has money and one doesn't. Also clean water, food and a school to go to," said Jasper of his decision to get involved. "UNICEF helps kids around the world. That's the whole reason I wanted to do this.'" That sense of anything counts was evident, as Jasper gleefully told would-be customers that "the lemonade is free but we accept donations for UNICEF" and traded Dixie Cups of the drink for as little as a nickel and as much as a $20 bill. Mother Erin, said she was "happily surprised'" to see the level of determination Jasper showed and his ability to turn compassion for his fellow children into action. "Jasper is strong-willed and a bit of a mule, but in this case I think those things really helped him out,'' she said, with a bit of a smile and wink. "He seems to have really found something he cares about and learned that sometimes you can do something good at the same time as you have fun." Though he wanted to join the U.S. Fund for UNICEF as a staff member, his aunt suggested he wait a few years and for now continue his fundraising efforts by dressing up as a Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF box for Halloween. After donning the box happily, he roamed the streets of his town and raised over $180 dollars. He's now planning another fundraiser for UNICEF this winter—selling hot cocoa during the next snowstorm.