Offering lemonade to fight cancer
by WILLIAM WRIGHT Lifestyles Editor
Jun 29, 2014 | 937 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
How Jaylen Parris turned a sour experience into a sweet fundraising sensation
Jaylen, 7, her brother Eli, 5, and little sister Arianna, 19 months, with their mother, Yokila Parris.
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A 7-year-old girl decided to open a lemonade stand to raise funds for cancer victims at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Jaylen Parris has raised nearly $2,000 in four weeks to help fight cancer. The fact that it was her own idea, simply because she wanted to help others in need, has inspired her parents, family, friends and the community to join her in raising even more funds for cancer victims and research.

It also inspired a friend, Ruby Watson, to enter Jaylen into WTCV News Channel 9’s “Pay It Forward” where she was chosen and presented last week with $500 cash for being an unsung hero in the community.

“Jaylen inspired us all,” said her mother, Yokila. “She came up with this on her own. For her birthday, instead of gifts, she wanted everyone to buy her a card and put money in it so she could donate it to cancer. She kept on and on about putting up a lemonade stand. So we finally put up a lemonade stand with a donation box for St. Jude and she made $312.44 just at the stand we set up at our house. So far she has raised $1,993.13 since May 31.”

Jaylen, a student at Black Fox Elementary School, took her $312.44 earnings from her lemonade fundraiser and combined it with her birthday present of $260 for a total of $572.44. She then raised an additional $543.63 by Tuesday for a total of $1,116.07. Adding $500 from her Channel 9 “Pay it Forward” reward and $377.06 from other generous contributions and Jaylen had $1,993.13 to donate to a worthy cause.

Her mother, who bakes cupcakes and cookies, decided to add to her daughter’s contributions by offering baked goods to raise more funds before the family drives to St. Jude to hand-deliver Jaylen’s donation to hospital officials.

“We are going to go around the end of July to take the money there,” Yokila said. “We will be taking donations and doing more bake sales over the next several weeks. If anyone has any ideas for easy, quick fundraisers, please, let us know.”

According to Yokila, her oldest daughter heard about a family member — Yokila’s uncle, Mitchell Brown, who passed away with leukemia at the St. Jude facility in the 1970s — that aroused Jaylen’s interest in fighting cancer. Brown’s death had a profound effect on her daughter. Instead of his death becoming just a bitter experience, her parents said they think it’s wonderful that someone so young would already be thinking of helping others.

“I think God has laid a big burden on her heart to help St. Jude,” Yokila said. “We’ll go along with her as long as she wants to do this. It makes us all very proud of her. We’d like to thank the public for being so generous. People have been offering to help, to get things set up for us. We will be having a car wash fundraiser at BI-LO on McGrady Drive on July 4. We’re also planning to have a yard sale set up at the RE/MAX office next to Cracker Barrel soon. I have a whole room full of things that people have donated for this yard sale. People have been amazing!”

Jaylen added, “I’m glad people are helping, and I hope they keep giving.”

The fact that a 7-year-old girl wanted to help, not because her parents suggested it or because she was inspired by teachers or commercial advertising, sounds extraordinary to many. Who knew that a taste of summertime in a refreshing glass of lemonade could also replenish the resources to fight cancer — something a sweet little girl thought of and is reminding people everywhere that you’re never too young to make a difference.

Anyone wishing to add to Jaylen’s donation to St. Jude can call Yokila or Scott Parris at 715-6203. Anyone wanting to donate directly to St. Jude Hospital can call 1-800-805-5856 or visit