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Lemonade for Ukraine: Bird Rock family raises money for Doctors Without Borders

Mary Grace, Anne and Matthew Stuart-Chaffoo staff their lemonade stand to raise money for Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Every morning during their spring break this week, the Stuart-Chaffoo children of Bird Rock have awakened bright and early to post a lemonade stand in front of their Camino de la Costa home to raise money for the branch of Doctors Without Borders working in Ukraine to assist those affected by the war following Russia’s invasion.

The sibling trio have had a morning shift and an afternoon shift to take advantage of high-traffic times, calling out “Lemonade for Ukraine! Lemonade for Ukraine!” and waving Ukrainian flags to catch the attention of passing dog walkers, commuters and neighbors.

And many of those passersby answered. As of March 30, 10-year-old twins Mary Grace and Matthew and their 7-year-old sister, Anne, had raised $300.

“It makes me really happy,” Anne said. “A lot of people are nice in this neighborhood and were glad to help other people. We can’t be selfish; we can be generous. ... That’s what you have to do in life.”

Mary Grace said she came up with the idea to raise money after she saw news of the war on television.

“I didn’t like it, so I wanted to donate to a charity for Ukraine,” she said. “I asked my mom and dad, and they are doctors, so they [suggested] Doctors Without Borders and I said OK. Then we thought about doing a lemonade stand, so we set it up and then my teacher [Dana Lally] came along and donated $20, gave us the table and the flags, and helped us a lot.”

In addition to accepting cash, the family printed out a Venmo QR code to collect electronic donations.

“I feel really good because a lot of people have donated,” Mary Grace said. “Someone sent us $40 on Venmo [anonymously]. Someone donated $20, but most people just give us what they have. Some don’t even take lemonade, they just wanted to donate.”

As many people of all ages struggle to help amid the devastation of the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, one La Jolla boy has jumped into action.

Matthew said the experience has helped him realize “how much people want to donate and help the Ukraine but they don’t know how to do it.” He said he hopes other children will be motivated to host a lemonade stand or have a garage sale to raise money to donate.

“It makes me happy because [the money we raise is] all going to a good cause and making a big difference,” he said.

The family chose to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders because “they are super duper heroes,” Anne said.

“It makes me really happy. ... We can’t be selfish; we can be generous. ... That’s what you have to do in life.”

— Anne Stuart-Chaffoo

The children have Ukrainian great-grandparents on their mother’s side.

“I’m really proud of them; they have gone all out with this,” said their mother, Susan Stuart. “The whole thing breaks our heart. We’re sad to see children and families evacuated and all the devastation that goes on. We started from a sad place and moved to a happier place.”

Lally, who teaches Mary Grace and Matthew at Bird Rock Elementary School, said she thinks her pupils’ project is the “best thing ever” and said she was moved by what she saw when she stopped by the lemonade stand on its first day.

“These kids were so involved in trying to get people in and donate,” Lally said. “They had a lot of foot traffic and people were stopping and talking to them. Someone was from Ukraine and he gave the history and the kids were so interested. It was heartwarming to see them out there on their spring break so they can raise money and send it over.”

She said her students have had questions about the conflict in Ukraine, especially regarding the impact on other children.

“You have to be careful about what you say, and there is a lot going on with the politics of the situation, but they are so curious,” Lally said. “They know it’s a war and they know people have been displaced. The kids are really interested in the other kids. They know that kids are affected and have had to move to another country. They saw them carrying their pets and everything they own in a suitcase. ... They wanted to help, and I think it’s amazing that they really want to do this.”

Mary Grace said the lemonade stand is a “spring break project” but that they might continue it “in our free time.” ◆