Two orphaned children in Samoa have a bedroom in Palm Coast they haven’t yet seen, with toys on the floor and baby clothes in the closet and children’s books on the shelves gathered by a couple they haven’t yet met.
And two Palm Coast kids decided to raise money to help make sure they will.
So they did what children often do when they want to earn some cash: They set up a lemonade stand.“We were hoping for about $100,” said John Skripko, 11 years old and a family friend of the couple planning to adopt the Samoan children. “We’d say, ‘Do you want to buy some lemonade? It’s for a good cause!’”
Their haul surprised them.
When it was all over, John, his sister, Emily, and their eight gallons of lemonade brought in a total of $1,157.
John and Emily placed their stand outside Waterfront Park on a hot August morning, pouring ice-cold lemonade for $1 a glass for joggers, pedestrians and bicyclists passing by.
Their motivation: Darren and Crystal Libby, long-time family friends. They heard the Libbys talking about plans for a pre-adoption yard sale to save money to adopt two children abroad. (The sale is all day Sept. 21, at 229 Underwood Trail.)
“They’re like family to us,” said Emily, 12. “They’re really nice and we love them, so it’s nice to give back.”
Darren Libby, 28, and his wife Crystal, 25, have worked multiple jobs — at one point, three each — to pay the costs associated with bringing a child from a foreign country to the U.S.
The legal process is difficult, too.
“It’s a crazy process. It’s a long process,” said Crystal Libby. “We’ve been at it for a year and a half, and we maybe have a year and a half to go.”
The Libbys haven’t been matched with their future children yet — that’s the next step — so they don’t know if the two children they adopt will be boys or girls. All they know is they will be under the age of 3.
For now, when they see children’s clothes on sale, they often buy. And they’ve set up a baby room with shelves full of books — “The Cat in the Hat,” “Olivia,” “The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature” —stories they’ve read so often they know them by heart.
To help their friends, the Skripko children didn’t just create a lemonade stand, they created a campaign.
Their parents, John and Jenny Skripko, helped them get the word out, telling family friends about their project and posting about it on social media. Publix and Woody’s Bar-B-Q donated lemonade.
“We were just surprised people were so generous,” Jenny Skripko said. “So many people had been through the adoption process and wanted to pay it forward.”
Some people who gave large sums, $100 or more, were family acquaintances.
One local couple that pitched in was Evan and Carla Shows. The Libbys' connection with the Shows goes back some time, when the Libbys lived out of state. As the Libbys began their own efforts to raise money, they heard about a couple in Palm Coast who were seeking donations. They contributed, never expecting to actually meet the Shows, but as it turned out, the Libbys moved to Palm Coast and now, the couples are good friends. The Shows' son, Ephrem, whom they adopted last year from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, drank a glass of lemonade at the Skripkos' stand.
Plenty of strangers pitched in, too.
“At the park, there were people who gave $50, and we had no idea who they were,” said Emily and John's father, also named John.
Joggers and walkers who passed by the kids’ stand without money went home and came back with some, often paying $5 or more for a glass.
The donations kept coming in even after the kids packed up their lemonade stand and went home.
Once the money was counted, Emily and her brother couldn’t wait to reveal their surprise.
The Skripko family invited the Libbys to Yomii Frozen Yogurt, and the kids each arrived with an envelope filled with a check for hundreds of dollars in their pockets.
They kept looking at each other and grinning as the adults chatted.
“I’d smile real big and try not to laugh, because they had no clue,” said Emily.
Finally, Emily and her brother spoke up. “We made something for you,” they said to the Libbys, as they handed over their envelopes.
Darren Libby assumed the envelopes held drawings or cards.
“I was shocked,” he said. “It was awesome. It was completely out of nowhere. We had no idea they were doing anything at all.”
The Libbys are not at liberty to say how much money they need to raise through the agency they are working with, but they said it is about same as their combined annual income. And so, as Darren Libby said, it wasn't so much the $1,157 the kids raised that moved them, it was the kindess expressed in the gift.
“It was humbling,” he said. “It backs us up and makes it clear that it’s the right choice,” adding that he and his feel confident that this is what God wants them to do.
The Skripkos told the Libbys all about their lemonade stand and other efforts, including stories about adoptive parents who had donated to the cause.
“To know that other people have done that and been there, and there’s full support — it’s good to know that,” Crystal Libby said.
The money Emily and John Skripko handed over from their lemonade stand is the largest single donation the Libbys have received.
“It’s cool to think of where that came from,” said Darren Libby. “It wasn’t a rich uncle or anything. It was just two kids who love us.”