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Lemonade stand sparks overwhelming support for Kamloops family

Emma English set up a lemonade stand in her Kamloops neighbourhood to raise funds for her little brother's medical care.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Cara English

The old adage “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” never made more sense for a mother of three in Kamloops.

Cara English’s daughter set up a lemonade stand to raise money for her little brother’s medical care, hoping to earn $200, but after just one day, $1,500 dollars were raised with more money coming in by email from “complete strangers.”

“Thank you isn’t enough to say to this community, I’m speechless,” English said. “This community is beautiful, kind and giving, and the gift they’ve given to my son is unbelievable.”

English’s four-year-old son is in need of an autism assessment but without paying the high cost of a private assessment, the family would be on a waiting list for at least two years.

With her son entering the public school system soon, English said two years is too long.

“It’s important to get the diagnosis before they get to school or they get lost in the system and won’t get the help they need,” she said. “Early intervention is the most helpful thing for these kids and can be the difference between a great life and life of struggle.” 

English was recently advised by experts who work with her son on his speech that he had signs of autism and it was strongly recommended the child get an assessment done as soon as possible.

“I’ve had certain suspicions because he didn’t speak until he was two but was reassured boys take longer to speak and his older sister was likely doing the talking for him," she said. "I’m in unknown territory with zero experience with autism, and I ignored my intuition.”

After going to her doctor, English was referred to a pediatrician and put on a months-long waiting list.

“The pediatrician will determine whether the child needs an assessment and make a referral,” she said. “Then you are put on another waiting list for two or three years. I don’t have that time, I had to do it as soon as possible.”

The young mother self-referred to a few private physicians and was added to relatively shorter waiting lists to see one, but didn’t have the funds ready.

“It’s so expensive for a private assessment, I don’t know the exact cost,” she said. “I’m told there are different types of assessments based on age that range in cost from $2,300 to $4,000.”

READ MORE: SUPER LOW INCOME: What families on the financial brink are up against in Kamloops

It was her daughter’s idea to set up the lemonade stand on Sunday, April. 14.

English made a post on social media letting everyone know about it and asked what a suitable price was. She added a small blurb about what the purpose of the stand was.

“I didn’t know it was going to blow up the way it did. I was unaware but my post was being shared, people were showing up telling me about it, people picked up on it so quickly that it just went crazy." 

A small donation was the cost of a glass of lemonade. 

One person commented on the post, saying she couldn’t come to the lemonade stand but wanted to e-transfer money to help the cause, and English posted her email address.

“It was so generous of her,” English said. “The next time I looked at my phone there were seven interact e-transfers from perfect strangers and more have come in since. There was no prompting, they just sent the money for my son, I cried a lot." 

READ MORE: Baseball program for kids on autism spectrum arrives in Kamloops and West Kelowna

The support English received at the lemonade stand went far beyond money. Numerous parents brought their children who have been diagnosed with autism and introduced them to her, sharing personal stories and updates on how their kids are doing after receiving the supports they need.

“It was so beautiful and it gave me so much hope,” she said. “It’s a scary diagnosis, especially if you don’t understand autism, and these parents were telling me how well their children are doing, about the funding they now get for programs to help them do better now and later in life.”

Getting supports and funding put in place is a benefit to all of the care givers working with a higher needs child.

“I’m the first to admit I need tools too to deal with this because I don’t have them,” English said. “My son is amazing but there are things that are difficult because I don’t know how to help him.”

READ MORE: Kamloops seniors learning new tech skills to connect with grandkids

Between the generosity of people at the lemonade stand and friends and family donating, English said there could be enough funds for the assessment although she doesn't know the exact cost yet.

She admitted, she doesn’t like asking people for help, but her son needs it. She hopes her experience will help someone else and has already been contacted from other parents in similar situations.

“I’m still learning but I’ll give them the resources and I will sympathize with them. There is a bit of grieving that goes along with this and I’ll help them find their way.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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