After hearing 5-year-old Jayden was interested in selling lemonade, father Jon Sink saw an opportunity to teach his daughter about compassion and equality. They held their first lemonade sale in front of the rainbow-colored Equality House, which stands as an LGBTQ-friendly message to counter its homophobic neighbors, the Westboro Baptist Church. Sink and his daughter hoped to raise even $50; instead, they sold $170 worth of lemonade and received thousands of additional dollars in online donations after people heard about their mission and message.
That father-daughter duo are this week’s Melissa Harris-Perry Foot Soldiers for their "Pink Lemonade For Peace" fundraiser that raised over $20,000 for the nonprofit organization Planting Peace. I spoke with Jon about the fundraiser and the lessons he hoped to impart to his daughter.
How did you and Jayden find out about the Equality House?
We initially found out about it back in March when they painted the house and it made so much press during that event. So I found it online with Jayden. Being only five years old, I thought she would love it, so I pulled her over to my laptop. She saw it and she thought it was beautiful.
She wanted to go see the house and I was happy to take her there to show her what it stood for: peace and compassion. And then a little while later is when we came up with the lemonade idea.
So how did that idea come about?
Well that came about, I’m not really sure how, maybe--maybe TV, Jayden somehow became aware of the concept of a lemonade stand that kids do during the summer so she asked me if she could do one.
I kept thinking about taking her to the Equality House and I was like, well, let’s try to turn this into kind of a teaching opportunity for myself and her where we can do a lemonade stand and we can donate the money to a charity. And since I’ve been very impressed with the work that Planting Peace does in all the various initiatives that they support. I reached out to its founder Aaron Jackson and I asked him, “Hey, my daughter and I want to do some lemonade stands during the summer, what do you think about raising money for your organization?”
And he was all for it and he-- and at that point, that’s when he invited us out to the Equality House, like, “Why don’t you guys do the first one out here?”
What was the day like? Was Jayden excited?
Yeah, absolutely, she was very excited about it. She told all of her family and friends she was going to the rainbow house to sell lemonade. She was very excited the week leading up, painting the signs, and we drove out there. As soon as we pulled up she was awestruck, I think, by seeing this house painted in rainbow colors.
How much were you able to explain to Jayden about the message of the house? Did you discuss the Westboro folks?
Leading up to it, I never mentioned the Westboro people to her at all. The whole thing was about Planting Peace and the Equality House and what they stood for, so I explained to her that the organization and the house, it represents equality, that all people should be treated equally; that it stood for peace, love and compassion, and relates to loving everyone the same no matter who they are or who they love. And she really liked that a lot.
It really wasn’t until the drive up there that morning I realized I probably should’ve-- at least to a point that a five-year-old could understand because I knew she would ask questions about the Westboro house because it does kind of stand out, you know she asked, "Why do those people have their flags upside down?"
So I just basically tried to explain to her about them that… that some people don’t agree with what the Equality House is doing, and they just have a different point of view than what we have and what I’m trying to teach you, and that was basically it. And after that, she asked about the flags but beyond that she didn’t really ask about them. I didn’t want it to be a point of conversation, because to me, they were irrelevant. The point was preaching love to her, and what the Equality House stood for.
Do you think [future lemonade stands] would be more local, or would you go back to the Equality House?
The original plan that I always had even before we went out there last Friday was to do the first one out there, and they maybe we would hold one every few weeks. We’re based in the Kansas City area, so having other ones in the Kansas City metro area, and invite our friends and family to come out and support us, and maybe have people who are inspired by the story get their kids involved.
We’ve gotten some very positive feedback from all of this that we’re very grateful for. I just want to thank everyone who has donated, even if you haven’t donated but you have shown support, it has been really outstanding.
The whole reason I came up with this idea to sell lemonade for a good cause with Jayden was that we see so much negativity on the news in these news stories... We see school shootings and bombings and everything else. I wanted to show her that it’s not all bad. There is love and compassion in the world and it outweighs the evil by far greater lengths. I think this will be a great experience for her to look back on as she grows up, to see the movement that she helped create.