First published in the April 9 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
For a dollar, Victor Van Alkemade and company will give you some fresh, homemade lemonade.
With the dollar, the 9-year-old hopes to contribute to a better day for fellow children, be they from Ukraine, Artsakh or Afghanistan war zones, displaced internally or internationally, in need of food, clothing or shelter — or all of the above.
And he said he’s going to keep it up until the war in Ukraine, which began in late February after Russian forces invaded a second time in a bid to seize control of the former Soviet Republic, is over.
“I was listening to the news with my dad, and I saw that there was an invasion of Ukraine,” Victor said, speaking from his stand this past Sunday. “I wanted to help, so I decided to do a lemonade stand because I’ve done that before for fun.”
For three Sundays now, Victor has spent his afternoons selling his lemonade and amassing hundreds of dollars in donations — they have accumulated around $650 so far — that will go to three organizations. At first, they were earmarked for UNICEF’s fund designated for Ukrainian child refugees. After chatting with a neighbor about the 2020 Artsakh War, the Van Alkemades then added the Children of Armenia fund to their list. Eventually, they also included Rescue Committee Afghanistan.
“I think the first world news he ever showed interest in was Afghanistan,” Victor’s mother, Katrina Van Alkemade, explained, referencing the U.S.-backed coalition’s withdrawal from the nation as Taliban forces reasserted their control last summer.
Victor, who attends Edison Elementary School, said he makes the lemonade with help from two friends, the siblings Sylvia and Malcolm, whose next-door home includes very productive lemon trees. In manning the stand, he said he also gets help from his 5-year-old brother, Rudy. The four pick lemons and press them together for the enterprise, which sets up on Burchett Street, in between Estelle and Highland avenues, in the Pelanconi neighborhood.
“Just knowing that people were dying in Ukraine made me want to do it,” Victor said.
Previously, Victor said he ran his lemonade stand in support of Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, which he and his family attend. Katrina Van Alkemade added that she and her husband instilled in Victor a sense of giving back by implementing a condition to his allowance: that a third of it needs to be donated to a cause.
Typically, Victor said that allowance fund goes to homeless or animal shelters.
“We were very impressed with him,” Katrina Van Alkemade said. “It was more than we were doing. We were looking at the news just thinking of a sad situation, so we were proud that he thought of something we can do.”