Kids' ‘bestie' lemonade stand goes viral and raises $75K for children's hospital research

When a group of kids recently set up a “bestie” lemonade stand and donated the earnings to a local children’s hospital, they nor their parents had any idea how far the good deed would go.

Hillary Weidner said her daughter, Beatrice “Bea” Weidner, and friend Jack Zerbe had a lemonade stand with their younger siblings over Labor Day weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio. They earned an impressive $148, and as a way to teach the children about giving back, the parents and kids decided to donate the money to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

The hospital has a place in the hearts of Bea and her family. When Bea was just was 6 months old, she was diagnosed with a rare liver disease. In need of a liver transplant, she was put on a waiting list until doctors learned her mother was a match.

Next year, the family will celebrate the five-year anniversary of Bea’s transplant.

According to the American Transplant Foundation, there are almost 114,000 people currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. On average, 20 people die each day from the lack of available organs. Weidner said her daughter could have been part of that statistic.

“Because I was was a match for her, I was able to donate before she became too sick,” Weidner explained. “There are many kids and adults who don’t have that luxury.”

Having used the power of social media in previous fundraising efforts, Weidner said she knew people would want to get behind a good cause this time around.

“When Bea was on the transplant wait list, we asked people to donate $7 in honor of her transplant date, which was July 7. And we raised like $30,000. This is like four years ago,” Weidner recalled. “There’s so much negative in the news right now. If somebody sees a glimmer of something good, I feel like people want to get behind it.”

On Friday, the children brought a $148 check to the hospital. Weidner posted a photo of the sweet moment on her Instagram, along with her Venmo account name for anyone interested in matching the contribution.

Soon, the donations began pouring in.

Friends of friends and businesses starting jumping on the giving train. Weidner said they received $1,000 from a family-owned dental practice, while another family once affected by kidney disease gave $5,000.

Weider said the group’s initial goal was $7,700 in honor of Bea’s “liver-versary.” Once they surpassed that goal, a new bar was set at $50,000.

As of Monday, the lemonade stand fundraiser for the hospital had reached $75,000 in donations, including a pledged contribution from Bravo host Andy Cohen.

Specifically, Weidner said the money will go to fund a research project at Cincinnati Children’s that is learning to regenerate organ tissue in a lab with stem cell technology — called organoids — or miniature versions of organs.

“If you need an organ down the road, or your husband or your kids or your parents need an organ, they’re not going to have to wait. You’re not going to have to watch them get sicker. They’re not going to be clinging to life,” Weidner said of the project. “You will be able to have them grow an organ for them in a lab.”

Weidner said all the kids involved in the two families, who range in age from 6 months to 5, are still a bit too young to distinguish the difference between $148 and $60,000 — but hopes their fundraiser will prove to have a longer-lasting impact on their lives.

“The whole goal of this and doing the check presentation, this big dramatic thing for $148, was to teach them philanthropy,” Weidner explained. “We are in charge of this next generation. I feel like our generation needs to do better and we have to raise these kids to want to give back, to want to think outside of themselves, and this was just our small little way to get them stepping in that direction.”

Anyone who would like to contribute to the fundraiser can reach out to Weidner on Instagram @hillarykweidner or donate to her Venmo account, @hillary-weidner.

Weidner said that despite the tragic stories often shown on the news, this experience has proven that there is, in fact, some good in the world.

“What’s been so incredible about this is that it’s highlighting there are good people. There are people that are giving $5 who may not really be able to afford that $5, but they feel compelled to pay it forward, and that is so powerful.”