The Tirabassi Family is what I would consider a “cornerstone family” in Kenosha, WI. Everyone here knows some, most or all of the extended family…and for good reason. The Tirabassi family works hard, they have faith, and they are extremely loyal to one another and to the Kenosha community. It came as no surprise to anyone to see social media blowing up with news of Ariana and Lilly’s Lemonade Stand and the results were as wonderful as they were powerful. I personally go back far enough to have encountered the patriarch, Mr Domenick Tirabassi Sr. and I’m certain he would be elated with the amount of compassion, concern and business acumen shown by his family. He would be pleased,but I do not think he would be surprised.
I like to consider myself a decent story teller and enjoy bringing to life with words, the events of any given story. In this case, I’m going to do none of that. Ariana’s mom tells the story from its beginning and there is little I could add other than saying this…Kenosha is a family filled with amazingly strong families…and fantastic people. And Kenosha will recover and we will be better than ever…we have to..for people like Ariana and Lilly and all of the young people who make up this incredible community. Enjoy this story and please contribute to this wonderful cause.
Mom, I feel so sad because the buildings are blacked out and they all have boards.” Ariana made these quick observations as we drove down Green Bay Road. Initially, I became emotional knowing I had very little control over what my daughter was thinking, feeling, and seeing. At that moment, I decided to teach my daughter how to gain a sense of control over her emotions and the changes that are occurring in our town. I wanted to be proactive, creative, and age-appropriate when teaching my daughter that she can make a difference and positively impact our community. The destruction that took place in Kenosha last week is complex and hard for an adult to wrap their mind around. It’s even more complicated to navigate how to discuss these events with children. As a mother, I know the way we talk about current events with our kids is a delicate balance; so I focused on the problem that Ariana had independently identified herself.
Saturday morning, I woke up knowing we had to do something for our city. I wasn’t comfortable joining all of the volunteers in downtown/uptown Kenosha because of Ariana’s strong response to everything as we just drove around. We revisited the conversation in the car and I asked Ariana, “What can we do to help?” Last summer, my husband and Ariana built a lemonade stand together. After brainstorming ideas and giving her a few prompts (we can sell something, people like drinks, etc.) Ariana screamed, “LET’S SELL LEMONADE!” Without hesitation, she put on her yellow dress, brushed her teeth and was rushing to get over to the perfect location for selling lemonade, Grandma and Grandpa Tirabassi’s house. As she was getting ready, she realized she needed her best buddy and cousin, Lilly Vitkus to help. “Mom, can you please call Angela (Lilly’s Mom) and ask her if Lilly can come help me?!” Naturally, our family always shows up, and two hours later, Lilly and Ariana were open for business.
The most beautiful part was being able to watch how well they both worked together answering tough questions and filling in all the blanks without any help from their parents. They really took control over the entire operation.
Here is an example of the regular conversations between the six-year-olds and adult customers:
“How much for your lemonade?
“It’s a donation, so whatever you want to give!”
“What are you donating too?”
“Businesses and people in Kenosha who need it or don’t have the money.”
(customer hands the girls a twenty dollar bill)
“Would you like any change?”
“No thank you, keep it up girls!”
“Thank you, would you like a piece of candy or ice with your lemonade?”
Generous people were pulling into my grandparents’ driveway waving money and shouting encouraging words. Ariana or Lilly would grab a lollipop to offer something in return for their generosity, knowing the customers weren’t here for the lemonade, just a donation. As word started to spread, the girls had the KINDEST people stop by:
A family dropped off extra plastic cups, a huge container of lemonade, and snacks for the girls.
A community member and her daughter came to share a painted rock, toys, and snacks for the girls.
A co-worker of mine brought cupcakes as a special treat for the girls.
My sister-in-law brought a case of water bottles.
My cousin bought the girls lunch to keep them fueled on day two.
Neighbors were walking from all directions to purchase lemonade and support the girls and our community.
The list goes on…
My sister, Juliana Tirabassi, had the idea of offering an option for people to donate if they were unable to personally stop over by accepting donations via Venmo as well. The total raised through Venmo was $322.44.
On day two, Lilly and Ariana’s cousin wanted to join in on the action! Caroline Lange helped pour lemonade, collect donations, hand out candy, and added extra ice for those who requested. Great job, Caroline!
Jon Vitkus, Lilly’s Dad, walked to the front of the lemonade stand and said he was going to grab a piece of candy. Ariana’s response was, “Are you going to donate money for that?!” Jon laughed at Ariana’s response but quickly pulled out his wallet to make his contribution. Lilly stood by and gladly accepted her father’s donation. No questions asked. I thought it was hilarious.
After two full days of selling lemonade, I asked Lilly and Ariana if they wanted to help count all the money, anticipating they would ask to keep some of it for themselves. With my help, the girls counted (almost) $1,700 in cash. Never once did either of these hard workers ask to keep a quarter, nickel, or dime. They simply wanted to know when we were going to be able to give it to the people who really need it. As parents, our hearts were filled with pride and joy. It was that little piece of positivity we ALL needed at the end of a crazy week.
Tonight I shared with Ariana all the positive comments that people made about her and Lilly. Lilly’s parents did the same. Both girls were smiling ear to ear and were proud of what they accomplished.
One comment from Scott Albin read, “They need to run another one and have their parents or someone set up a Venmo for them, so we can contribute from afar…” Ariana responded, “Mom, we are doing it again tomorrow. Tell him.”
Ariana and Lilly are planning on donating a portion of their proceeds to Sugar Box, a business in Uptown Kenosha and Downtown/Uptown Kenosha Recovery through Downtown Kenosha Inc.
The team that made this happen:
Ariana Rivera – Drew and Tricia Roberts, Anthony Rivera
Lilly Vitkus – Jon and Angela Vitkus
Caroline Lange – Chris and Theresa Lange
*If you wish to contribute, please Venmo @Tricia-Tirabassi. Please comment if you’ve donated!