Girl's lemonade stand raises $20K for charity

August 30, 2012 (HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.)

"Cookies, lemonade, water all for charity!" Gabriella yells in her Highland Park neighborhood. The idea of opening a lemonade stand first came to her when she was five years old.

"It's human nature that people want to help others, but a lot of people don't know how to help and I figure by creating a lemonade stand, it would create a path for people to help others," Gabriella said.

She donates the money to the Equestrian Connection, a nonprofit organization that offers therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with special needs. Gabriella's younger sister, Danielle, started riding there several years ago. Danielle couldn't walk or talk until she was 4-years old.

"It changed my daughter," Dena Cooperman said of Equestrian Connection. "It gave her the opportunity to be like every other kid and that's what the horses do. They enable these children to get on a horse and for kids who are in wheelchairs, they don't need their wheelchair on a horse. They sit stronger and a lot of them smile because they feel I did this. I can do this. It's amazing.

While attending therapy sessions with Danielle, Gabriella learned of the facility's adopt-a-rider program and found no shortage of children in need.

"We raise about half of our revenue from fundraising events and we have 45 clients right now who need scholarships for therapy," Diana Schnell, cofounder, Equestrian Connection, said.

Gabriella has raised more than $20,000 in the past seven years, one cookie at a time.

"However old you are it really doesn't matter as long as your thoughts and intents and efforts are in the right place," Gabriella said.

The cost of one child's weekly therapy for a year is about $3,600. The horse's expenses are about $6,000 at Equestrian Connection, To donate to Gabriella's lemonade stand, visit the Cookies for Charity website on .

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