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By Peter Vankevich
Kids selling lemonade is part of summer Americana. Sometimes, one of those lemonade stands makes the news. This is one of them, thanks to the diligence of 6-year old Lilly Anderson, a first-grader at Tiller School in Beaufort.
Lilly’s parents, Rusty and Kim Anderson of Morehead City, were saddened by the devastation that Hurricane Dorian wrought on Ocracoke. Last year, they went through a similar experience when Hurricane Florence struck their area. They are long-time visitors to the island and Lilly has been visiting since she was an infant. When told of the flooding, she said she wanted to help the school buy books, crayons and pencils because she loves books and loves to read.
The family came up with a plan.
Lilly’s older sister, Sarah, now a student at NC State, used to sell lemonade when she was a child. Maybe Lilly could do the same and donate the proceeds to the school.
The family set up a cart and signs for Ocracoke School donations to sell lemonade, water and lollipops at a friend’s house where Sarah once sold her lemonade. This location was perfect for a huge number of walk-bys: It was about a block away from the North Carolina Seafood Festival, an annual event the first weekend in October in Morehead City and which attracts about 200,000 visitors.
In its 33rd year, the festival has a tradition of the Blessing of the Fleet of the commercial fishing boats, and the proceeds are shared with community organizations who donate their efforts to the event. Last year, the popular event was canceled due the damage caused by Hurricane Florence.
“We thought Lilly would do it for a couple of hours and maybe she could raise $100,” said Rusty.
She amazed her parents by going from 11:30 in the morning until 10:30 p.m.
“You know, she never asked if she could she quit,” he said. “One of our friends fixed some chicken nuggets so she would sit there and munch on them in between selling and stuff.”
In the afternoon, Rusty posted a photo of Lilly at the lemonade stand and a little message about what she was doing on his business Facebook page, Anderson Plumbing and Sewer.
“People started sharing and liking it and asking how they could donate,” he said. “And then I reached out to some of the vendors and people that we do business with that may not have seen the post and told them what she was doing. And then they offered to donate, and then they told people about it and they donated. So it just kind of morphed.”
In the end, Lilly collected an amazing $8,718.90.
Rusty is a long-time friend of islander Norman Miller and has done plumbing jobs for him over the years and had another scheduled last Thursday. He contacted the school and asked Principal Leslie Cole if he could take Lilly that day to school and deliver the donation, to which Cole enthusiastically agreed to. Mother Kim had a poster-sized copy of the check made for a photo op.
The Anderson family, which included Lilly’s older brother, Tyler, stepped off the Cedar Island ferry that morning and went to the nearby North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), one of the three locations the school is using while the school is repaired. They were greeted by Cole and Assistant Principal Mary McKnight. Several of the upperclassmen passed by and thanked Lilly for her great work.
From there, the family and school officials headed to Ocracoke Child Care on Old Beach Road where the Pre-K through second grade are holding classes. Lilly was greeted and thanked by the students. The first-grade students wrote individual thank you letters and handed them to her as new friendships emerged.
When she was visiting with the first graders, the intercom came on. Hyde County Superintendent of Schools Steve Basnight was patched in from the mainland.
“I’m sorry I can’t be there to thank you personally; to say how wonderful your gift is for all of us,” he said. “But I just couldn’t let the day go by without talking to you.”
It was a visit that the shy 6-year old will probably never forget and she is proud of what she did to help the school.
“Lily keeps reading over and over the nice letters the students wrote,” said her proud dad on Saturday.
Like many others, Ocracoke School suffered substantial damage due to the historical flooding and it will not reopen for quite some time. In addition to this donation, the school has received other contributions.
Those wishing to make a financial contribution, can write a check to payable to Ocracoke School and mail it to: Hyde County Schools
Ocracoke School Donation
PO Box 217
Swan Quarter, NC 27885