Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – It’s as Easy as Planting a Tree

Name: Sarah Connor
From: Northport, NY
Grade: High School Senior (2016-2017), College Freshman (2017-2018)
School: Northport High School (Carnegie Mellon University)
Votes: 0


It’s as Easy as Planting a Tree
by Sarah Connor

I
began volunteering at six-months when my mom took me to a nursing
home every week as part of their “Surrogate Grandchild” program.
I don’t remember it, but it tripped a switch in my young brain
that’s stayed in the on position ever since.

I’ve
walked dozens of miles to raise money for charities, and even ridden
my bicycle hundreds of miles across the country. I’ve donated my
hair, and shaved my head six times for childhood cancer. I’ve
volunteered at a community farm and at our library. I’ve spent my
summers at a camp for kids with cancer and hosted a fundraiser
instead of having a bat mitzvah. I’ve given my talents as a face
painter and a harpist for countless community organizations, and run
book and art-supply drives for others.

But
the one thing that endures, the one I consider my legacy, is
LemonAid.

It
all began on my walk to elementary school, when I would pass under my
favorite cherry tree. I loved that tree. I’d give bouquets of its
flowers to my teachers and dance under the blizzard of its petals
when it shed its pink coat. It greeted me each morning and welcomed
me home each afternoon.

But
then it was cut down. I was devastated.

When
the Village Board told me there was no money in the budget to replace
it or the other missing trees along Main Street, I decided to fight
my debilitating shyness to help.

I
set up a stand in front of my house, called it LemonAid, and sold
lemonade for Main Street’s trees. I placed jars on the counters of
local stores inviting customers to donate their change, sold hot
chocolate on snow days, and even stood in front of large groups to
make presentations for support. LemonAid raised more than enough to
plant all the Main Street trees!

But
I didn’t stop there.

Once
those trees were in place, LemonAid planted trees in Joplin, Missouri
after tornado destroyed more than 50% of that Tree City USA’s
trees; in Moore, Oklahoma where 22 trees donated by LemonAid
memorialize the 22 people killed by a tornado; in Oceanside and Long
Beach on Long Island after Superstorm Sandy dumped salt water on
trees incapable of surviving that flood; and back home again where a
grant from LemonAid helped parents plant maple trees to separate the
elementary school playing fields from the street.

No,
I haven’t saved the rainforest or raised a million dollars for
charity; but people breath cleaner air, sit in the shade, take a
moment to enjoy the blossoms in the spring and the changing colors in
the fall, their soil is richer and their lives are better all because
one little girl overcame her shyness and had a lemonade stand. So
I’ll continue to help the causes I believe in no matter where my
career takes me. And in twenty years my children will dance under
the petals of the cherry trees I helped plant on Main Street.


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