Hundreds of yellow-clad community members participated in The Most Epic Lemonade Stand Ever on Friday, Nov. 16 in Thousand Oaks to raise money for the victims of the Borderline shooting and the Woolsey and Hill fires.
Late at night on November 7, a gunman opened fire at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, killing 12 and injuring many more. Not even 24 hours later, two fires started, leading to thousands of residents being forced to evacuate their homes. The Woolsey fire alone burned down more than 1,000 structures.
The shooting and the fires of the following days took a heavy toll on the community. As such, many community members have been looking for ways to help those affected by the tragedies. The Most Epic Lemonade Stand Ever is one of many local efforts to raise money for victims.
The event, which took place in the Berkshire Hathaway Home Services parking lot on Thousand Oaks Blvd., was a drive-through lemonade stand complete with baked goods, an art station and donation buckets. By the end of the day, the stand raised over $44,000.
Shannon Atkins, who lives in the community, came up with the idea for the lemonade stand on Monday, Nov. 12, and it quickly grew as community members volunteered their time and resources.
“When we found out there was no school for two weeks, we decided we needed to keep the kids busy,” Atkins said. “This took them a couple days of poster making and baking, and then today has just been such a nice feeling. It’s nice for everybody to feel like they’re doing something.”
Aside from creating a positive activity for many local students, Atkins wanted to find a way to help the Thousand Oaks community after the tragedies of the previous week.
“All the donation centers were no longer taking clothes or bathroom goods or whatever people needed because they were overwhelmed,” Atkins said. “Everybody had time and nobody had anything that they felt they could do, so it was just a very simple idea but everyone was like, ‘Oh, perfect!’”
After one brainstorming meeting at a local park, community members split up tasks. One volunteer designed a logo, one researched the Ventura County Community Foundation fund to make sure it was legitimate and one set up a volunteer sign-up. The group then began to promote the event with social media. They asked attendees to wear yellow in solidarity with the victims and to tag all social media posts about the stand with #epiclemonade.
The stand received support from all ends of the community. Many local businesses, including BJ’s Brewery, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Cookie Conundrum, Doan’s Bakery, Karma Bakery, Sharky’s, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Sweet Arleen’s and Vons, donated baked goods to sell or other services to assist with setup and planning.
The Westlake High School girls and boys water polo teams handed out flyers at the mall on the morning of the event to raise awareness about it.
“I wanted to participate because I really care about the community and the people in it, and I know some people who have been affected by the fire,” junior and girls water polo player Dinuli Manikka-Baduge said. “Both the shooting and the fire are devastating events and I don’t think anyone should be going through this alone.”
The team succeeded in their goal, sparking the interest of many mall-goers.
“Most of the people we talked to seemed interested in supporting the event,” said boys water polo player senior Martin White. “Some stores and kiosks [had] us leave a small stack of leaflets by the registers to help spread the word.”
On the day of the event, students and parents alike showed up to help out.
“People show up and say, ‘we signed up to volunteer, what do you need?’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, just find a place,’” Atkins said. “There’s so many volunteers — we have more than we need, but that’s great.”
Dozens of students, wearing yellow and holding handmade signs, stood on the street corners around the event. The group, including many WHS cheerleaders, enthusiastically pointed at the stand, some holding donation buckets.
“It’s a good cause and it just helps out our community, and we’re just trying to do it as best as we can,” said cheerleader and junior Julia Dinerman. “I think we’re going to be able to bounce back as a community.”
The lemonade stand was set up as a drive-through, making it easy for more people to donate even with limited parking. Students served as runners, taking orders from cars and fulfilling them at one of the many treat tables.
“I figured it would be good to help,” said Colina Middle School student Terme Arjomand. “My family and I got evacuated [because of the fire] … I knew that we would most likely be fine, but staying calm just helps and getting together also helps.”
The event saw a massive turnout, with hundreds of community members volunteering, attending and donating. Volunteers collected donations and sold lemonade and treats at a long line of tables under mismatched canopies, and kids colored pictures of a grizzly bear hugging an outline of the state of California. The evening ended with two fire trucks full of firemen visiting the stand, donating and helping clean up.
“I was like, ‘we’re going to make it the most epic lemonade stand ever!’ and now it actually possibly might be,” Atkins said. “Really, we did not expect this kind of turnout. It has been nonstop the whole day… It really has been amazing.”
The money raised, which is being donated through the VCCF, is being split between the Conejo Valley Victims Fund and the Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire Sudden and Urgent Needs Effort. The stand raised more than $52,000 as of Nov. 19, with online donations still rolling in.
“We’ve been collecting cash [and] people have been doing donations online,” Atkins said. “Also, people have just been Venmoing me, so whenever I get that money then I’ll withdraw it [and] put it into the same fund.”
In light of recent events, many community groups and members have been planning fundraisers and benefits to support the victims of local tragedies. The Most Epic Lemonade Stand Ever is just one of many recent charity events, with many more happening in the coming weeks.
“In trying times such as these, healing and recovery can only come through uniting as the family we are, to pick up those who have been struck by tragedy,” White said. “At face value, these events help those affected in a financial sense. But deeper than that, I think these events help to unite the community on an emotional level to overcome the stress and pain that recent events have brought about.”