Heading north on her annual 600-kilometre trek to grandma’s cottage outside Espanola (600 kilometres from London) on July 25, Marissa Allen and her family heard about the Costco tragedy on the radio.
The soon-to-be-Grade 1 student seemed to grasp the gravity of the situation as she felt a connection to Addison Hall, the six-year-old girl who died after she, her pregnant mom and three-year-old sister were run down as they tried to walk in to the south London Costco at noon that fateful Friday.
So she and her older sister Cassandra, 12 set up a lemonade and cupcake stand at Cutler Lake Lodge, where her grandparents spend the summer.
Her cousins Crislynn and Jordan Dalla-Vincenza (11 and 15) helped write a lemonade song that drew in passerby, some who donated $10 for a glass of lemonade and a frosted treat. Others simply got out of their cars, stuffed cash in the jar and continued on their way.
All told, they made about $100 in a couple of hours.
“I wanted to give all the money to the girl who passed away at Costco,” Marissa said. “She was six years old. Same age as me.”
Marissa had her pitch written on a card.
“Welcome to the Dalla-Allen Lemonade Stand,” she’d recite. “Can I interested you in a lemonade and cupcake combo? It’s a donation of your choice for the girl who passed away.”
Cassandra said she was “really impressed” about how much people cared and how much they would donate to help a family in crisis.
“We set up on the edge of the road and sang a lemonade song that we made up,” she said. “People would hear the song and get out and donate $10 for a glass of lemonade. They just wanted to help out.”
The $100 will be added to the more than $64,000 that has been collected through a crowd-funding website (www.gofundme.com/c6mlcs). Costco has announced it would match the total with a corporate donation, in addition to collections taken up amongst the employees and shoppers of the city’s two stores.
Dad Rob Allen said the girls hoped to inspire others to see what small difference they could make.
“The girls were excited to be able to do something, and that it was going to show other people about what they can do to give and hopefully make other people think about giving too.”
It’s mom Mary Ellen Allen’s parents who live in Sudbury and camp out at Cutler Lake.
“We left (London) the day it occurred and we were so shaken up by it,” she recalled. “We didn’t want to say too much to the girls (and) upset them, but people were talking. So we told them and Marissa came up with the lemonade stand.
“Marissa is an artist, she’s very creative. She always puts a positive spin on everything and she just got excited right away about being able to do something positive. Addison was the same age as Marissa and that just really touched her.”
Hearing news of a family shattered on a simple shopping trip struck a chord within the young family.
“It really hit us hard, we all felt it was so close to home,” she said. “My kids are strapped to me wherever I go and I could really relate. It’s a lesson to us all to I guess cherish what we have. Children are everything when you’re a mom.”