It is always crazy to me when two people miss a connection one time, and make it another. It’s like the universe saying “Hey, you missed something special!”. This is what happened with me and Lulu Cerone. When I was little, my mom owned an art studio called Tinker. Hundreds of people passed through those doors, some of whom we got to know pretty well. One of these people was Lisa Cerone, mom of Lulu and Jasper. I am not entirely sure that I ever actually talked to either of them because I was usually running around the store “helping” my mom. But my mom and and Lisa came to know each other pretty well. After Tinker closed, we didn’t see most of the Tinker patrons again. But every so often we would cross paths with someone.It is always crazy to me when two people miss a connection one time, and make it another. It’s like the universe saying “Hey, you missed something special!”. This is what happened with me and Lulu Cerone. When I was little, my mom owned an art studio called Tinker. Hundreds of people passed through those doors, some of whom we got to know pretty well. One of these people was Lisa Cerone, mom of Lulu and Jasper. I am not entirely sure that I ever actually talked to either of them because I was usually running around the store “helping” my mom. But my mom and and Lisa came to know each other pretty well. After Tinker closed, we didn’t see most of the Tinker patrons again. But every so often we would cross paths with someone.One of those times occurred when I was invited to speak at an empathy and leadership camp called My Name My Story. When I was there, I noticed another girl who was also presenting. She had been at the camp all week. She was 2 years older than me, with blunt black bangs and an air of coolness about her. I learned that she ran an organization called LemonAID Warriors which would be the subject of her presentation. I actually run an organization too and hadn’t met many other kids like me who did. My mom was there with me and so was the other girl’s mom and they immediately recognized one another. It turns-out this girl was Lulu from Tinker. We all ended up reconnecting, and ever since I have always looked up to Lulu.
We joke that I am always one step behind Lulu, but not in a bad way. When it comes to awards, speaking engagements, conferences, etc. Lulu always seems to do everything one year before I do. Because of this I have always seen her as a role model, someone who can help guide me through the craziness of running a charity when you are young. I find her to be so confident, charismatic, and passionate. Which is why when I heard she was writing a book, I was filled with joy. I knew it would be good. Better than good actually. It would be utterly amazing. And when she she asked me if she could feature me in the book, it blew my mind! To think that someone I looked up to wanted to feature me in such an amazing project was, and still is so crazy to me.
Since I am also in the change-making space I know where there are gaps in available resources for organizations for kids who want to create change. I know what resources exist and which ones may offer something new, but actually don’t. The book, PhilanthroParties is something else. It should be on the shelf of every person, young or old. It is all about spreading kindness through action which is something the world really needs right now. I wanted to learn more about the inspiration behind the book so I decided to interview Lulu. Here is what she had to say.
So I know that you started LemonAid warriors when you were very young, what got you started? What has kept you working on it after all these years?
I started LemonAID Warriors when I was 10 years old, but I definitely wasn’t some overly ambitious 10 year old with dreams of running a nonprofit. I always had lemonade stands growing up to raise money for local charities. It was just a fun thing that I did with my friends, and the fact that we were helping people made it even cooler. The first time I ever had an emotional response to a global issue was when the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. I remember seeing images of the damage and crying. I wanted to help in anyway that I could, so I stuck with what I knew best and organized a lemonade stand competition between the boys and girls in my class. We ended up raising $4,000 in two weeks and it was an incredible, empowering experience. I wanted to continue throwing fun events that help others and encouraging youth to do the same, so I established LemonAID Warriors to make things more official. I still strongly believe in the message that young people can truly make a positive impact on the world, which is why I continue working on LemonAID Warriors today.
Why did you feel the concept of a “PhilanthroParty” was so important? What was the need that you hoped this incredible concept would fill?
I know that for young people, especially middle and high schoolers, it can seem impossible to find the time for community service. But we all make time to hang out with our friends, right? And most of us have birthday parties, and maybe our family organizes an annual holiday party. Social events can easily be transformed to serve a greater purpose. So PhilanthroParties encourages young people to add social action to their social lives. They’re an easy, adaptable, and accessible way to fit giving into your busy schedule.
You started when you were 10 years old and you are 18 now. Because you were running this organization during such formative years of your life, how much of an influence do you think it had on you as a person? What are some of the biggest things you think it has taught you?
It’s had such a massive impact on me! I think overall it’s made me a kinder, more aware person. I’ve been much more conscious of the needs surrounding me since getting involved when I was young, both in my own community and in the world at large. Now that I’m entering my freshman year of college, I’m considering pursuing international politics, which is definitely due my experiences growing up. Also, I definitely think that practicing generosity at a young age instilled a tendency within me to be kind to others and help out whenever I can. One of the main reasons why LemonAID Warriors seeks to work with youth is because I truly believe that if you start giving back while you’re young, you’re much likely to continue spreading kindness and having a greater awareness as you grow older and hopefully for the rest of your life
Running an organization and writing a book at such a young age is incredible. But often times when someone is successful, others feel the need to tear them down because of their own insecurities or because they simply don’t understand. Have you ever come across this either online or in person? How have you handled it?
Something interesting that I’ve noticed, especially this past year as a senior in high school, is that a lot of people assume that the only reason I’m running LemonAID Warriors and publishing a book is to get into a good college. I’ve heard a lot of snarky comments about that, from both peers and adults alike. It’s definitely a little hurtful, because it assumes that my intentions with LemonAID Warriors are self-serving, which is certainly not the case. I know that often those comments, especially when they come from people my age, are out of insecurity, which usually peaks during college application season. I’ve sort of learned to brush them off, because I know that I do what I do out of a passion to help others and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
Because there are so many different mediums for sharing information now, from podcasts and videos to blogs and social media, what made you want to do a book?
In this age of technology, deciding to write a book is definitely a little weird! But I love reading and publishing a book has always been my dream. Plus, being able to preserve my message in such a tactile way is really powerful and makes it feel more permanent.
What are your goals for the book, how do you hope people will use it?
My main goal for this book is just to get the message out there. It’s never really been about money or book sale numbers for me, but more about spreading the idea that young people can take action in simple, fun ways. Since my book teaches readers how to throw 36 different parties benefitting a variety of causes, I’m hoping that people will replicate some of the parties, or simply be inspired by the message and plan their own. The autonomy that I felt as a 10 year old was so powerful and really influenced who I am today, and I hope that other youth will have that same experience.
What is your favorite chapter of the book and why? Which part was the most fun for you to write?
My favorite chapter honestly changes weekly, but I think I have to go with Ugly Food Feast. It’s a dinner party where the meal is made out of food that would typically be wasted. There’s a recipe for veggie burgers made out of juice pulp, salad made from imperfect looking vegetables that grocery stores would normally throw out, and banana bread made from brown bananas. It sends a powerful message about food waste and gets the conversation started.
Every single party in the book was inspired by some sort of personal experience I’ve had, so each chapter starts out with a personal story. Those were probably my favorite to write, since I got to take a major trip down memory lane and talk about experiences that have been important to me.
Photography was another story! We had to photograph 36 parties and only had the budget for a 4 day photoshoot, so it was a little hectic. But my community of friends and family all came together to support the cause. That was probably the most valuable part of the book process for me. The book truly is a community effort.
How has the response to the book been so far? Has it been what you hoped?
Definitely! People seem to really connect to PhilanthroParties!. We actually sold out at the launch party hosted by a local bookstore, which the manager said has never happened at an author event in their store’s history! There’s definitely still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of promoting PhilanthroParties! on a national scale, but I’m not giving up and definitely have a lot of faith!
If people take one thing away from the book, what do you want it to be?
Anybody, regardless of their age, can positively impact our world. I know it’s a simple message, but it’s so, profoundly important.
Since you’ve spent the last 10 years spreading your amazing message and growing LemonAid Warriors, and now your book is out for the world to enjoy what are you looking forward to doing the most?
I’m actually headed off to Columbia University next year, and I’m really excited to focus on college for a while. My Vice President Madi, who’s going to be a freshman in high school next year, is taking over LemonAID Warriors in my absence. I’ll still be heavily involved with LW, and activism will definitely play a huge role in my college life, but I’m really looking forward to this next chapter of exploration.
Lastly, because we are Channel Kindness and what you do is all about being kind to others, how much do you think kindness has influenced your work?
Kindness is at the core of my work. PhilanthroParties are really all about fostering kindness. In fact, some of the parties in my book solely focus on spreading kindness rather than on collecting donations or money, because I believe that it’s just as valuable. If we would all get in touch with our kindness and help other people, the world would be an immensely better place.
Here is a page from the book. This PhilantroParty focuses on spreading kindness.