Young Heroes

Vivienne Harr

by Sue Glader

Vivienne Harr (Photo by Tim Porter)
Vivienne Harr (Photo by Tim Porter)

Vivienne Harr was on to something when she told people to simply pay what was in their hearts. It's not exactly a common business practice, but then Vivienne was only eight when she suggested the strategy. Turns out, she's one tenacious saleswoman with some strong ideas.

You see, Vivienne made a lemonade stand. This, in and of itself, isn't that different from what children across the country do every summer. But what is different is that Vivienne wanted to raise money to free children in slavery. She called it Make A Stand lemonade.

"I just thought it was wrong and I had to help," she says simply.

Her goal? $100,000. Yes, that's not a typo. Vivienne wanted to raise $100,000 to free 500 child slaves. What's more, she was willing to stick with it - every day, rain or shine - until she made good on that promise.

"Brothers Carrying Stone, Nepal" (Photo by <a href=>Lisa Kristine</a>)
"Brothers Carrying Stone, Nepal" (Photo by Lisa Kristine)

She was motivated by a photograph taken by Lisa Kristine, a San Francisco-based photographer whose image of two young brothers from the Himalayas had made a big impression upon Vivienne. It was two boys holding hands, brothers about her age, forced to carry granite boulders from a strap around their heads. Kristine took the pictures to move others into action. And boy, was Vivienne activated.

"I thought slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln," Vivienne says on the Make a Stand website. "I was wrong about that. I learned that slavery is everywhere and even here in America. I wanted to do something, because compassion is not compassion without action."

Since the only way she knew to make money was selling lemonade, she did that. "I decided to do my lemonade stand every day rain or shine for a whole year to raise money to help these kids," she says. "It was a gigantic, audacious goal," says her father Eric.

So on Monday June 25th, 2012, she took her home-made stand (she had help from her folks) and positioned it in a public park in her hometown of Fairfax, California. She brought people to tears with her determination. Vivienne raised quite a bit of money on that first day. And the next. One week turned into one month.

When Vivienne decided that her lemonade should be "free because every child should be free," the value of each lovingly made cup of organic lemonade sweetened with agave nectar and offered with optional mint and raspberries soared from an average of $2 to $18. One cup brought in $1,000.

Her father, a social media professional, helped spread her story with a Twitter feed. When New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted about Vivienne's lemon-aid on day #52, more than $18,000 rolled in in just 2 days alone. By day #56, she had made $30,000. Media from all around the U.S. and as far away as Hong Kong to Brazil, have covered her story.

Vivienne for <a href=>Make a Stand! Lemon-Aid</a> <br>(
Vivienne for Make a Stand! Lemon-Aid

Every day Vivienne was at her stand, even after summer ended. She continued to open her stand, every day changing the chalk number on the front of her stand to show just how many days she had been at it. On the 173rd day, she set up her stand in Times Square at the request of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Not surprisingly, that's where she surpassed her goal and was able to write a check for $101,320 (in truth, her parents had to sign it) to Not For Sale, a California non-profit focused on ending child slave labor.

Her parents were so proud. And probably a bit ready to move on. "My parents said, 'Honey, you did it! You're done!'' says Vivienne. "I said, 'Is child slavery done?' They said 'No.' I said, 'Then I'm not done."

Indeed, Vivienne continued to pulp organic lemons and set up her lemonade stand every day for a full 365 days. On the 366th, Make a Stand Lemon-aid in a bottle was introduced, and the street-side lemonade stand moved online. It's now also sold at 150+ grocery stores. The "pay what's in your heart" model is still used.

Her father quit his job to work full-time on realizing Vivienne's dream of ending slavery in her lifetime one bottle of lemonade at a time.

Vivienne's new 501(c)3, The Make a Stand Foundation, seeks to deliver on Vivienne's vision: "I want to help free the 18 million children in slavery and keep them safe. Free and safe." She has become a leading global voice in the fight against child slavery.

With 30 million slaves worldwide - and half of them children - there is plenty of work to be done. Make A Stand lemonade donates 5% of its sales to Free The Slaves, Nepal Youth Foundation, UNICEF, the International Programme On the Elimination of Child Labor, and Gems: Girls Educational & Mentoring Services.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for nine-year-old Vivienne Harr, one picture has been worth all the effort. And for countless children enslaved around the world, this one girl is priceless.

"If done right, [Make a Stand] could not just raise money to end child slavery, but perhaps create a role model for nonprofits and all types of businesses." ~The New York Times

Actor Sir Patrick Stewart, Vivienne Harr, Bureau Chief of Public Information for the Boston Police Department Cheryl Fiandaca, and NYSE Executive Vice President Scott Cutler (Reuters photo)
Actor Sir Patrick Stewart, Vivienne Harr, Bureau Chief of Public Information for the Boston Police Department Cheryl Fiandaca, and NYSE Executive Vice President Scott Cutler (Reuters photo)

Twitter honored Vivienne by allowing her to ring the bell at their IPO on November 7th, 2013.  They chose her because she is “a symbol of the power of one person ­ – and how Twitter can be used to change the world.”  


When Sue Glader asked Vivienne, "Who is your hero?" Vivienne replied:

"My hero?
it is the child in slavery who doesn't give up hope.
think about this.
you have to work all day,
and you're hurt,
and you can't leave.
but you hold on to hope
and you keep going.
that's a hero to me.
i hope these kids can hold on to hope,
because we're coming.
we're coming."
-- Vivienne Harr

Page created on 6/20/2015 3:50:15 PM

Last edited 7/19/2019 5:38:09 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

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