Lemonade for Lawson
When Rob and Brittany Batsel’s kids decided they wanted to fix up their old lemonade stand and have a lemonade sale, their mom advised them to make it count.
“You’ve got to have a cause,” Brittany Batsel remembered telling 8-year-old Andie and 5-year-old Will. “You can’t just do it for your piggy bank.”
The siblings decided to help 7-month-old baby Lawson, the daughter of Sam and Jessica Armstrong who inspired the pink “Love for Lawson” signs that began popping up in yards all over town late last year.
Brittany Batsel’s youngest child, Mac, was born just a week before Lawson, giving Andie and Will a special interest in the story of the baby born with a rare bone marrow illness.
“They couldn’t believe that this little baby had never really spent time with her sister,” Brittany Batsel said. “They can relate so it was a good teachable moment for them.”
Andie and Will recruited their neighbors, Camden Douglas, 12, and Kimber Douglas, 8. They set up their lemonade stand at Scott J. Andrews Park, 1104 SE 12 St., after school on April 16. Their goal was to raise $300 to help Lawson’s family with the costs of a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy, multiple surgeries and months of medical care.
In just three hours, without even selling all their lemonade, the kids raised $4,000.
“It was such a wonderful lesson for them and for us as parents to witness how great it felt to give and how wonderful our community was in supporting a little baby who’s currently going through some big stuff,” Brittany Batsel said.
Lawson’s grandmother, lifelong Ocalan Kelly Juarez, called the lemonade stand fundraiser “amazing.”
“The sentiment, that was so sweet. It was those little girls’ idea to do that,” Juarez said. “I think Ocala’s got a big heart. They care about each other. It’s been really sustaining to us.”
Prayers and an outpouring of love and support from the community have helped their family through the worst time they’ve ever had, Juarez said.
After Lawson was born on Aug. 26, she spent much of her first few months at UF Health Shands Hospital. Then, just a few days before Christmas, she was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital.
Now, more than two months after a bone marrow transplant, Lawson’s condition is showing significant improvement, Juarez said.
“It’s not over but I feel like we’re turning a corner, so that is wonderful,” Juarez noted. “Lawson’s platelet count is doing fabulous. Her bone marrow seems to be progressing well.”
Juarez said the family has tried to focus on the positives and use the experience as a lesson for Lawson’s 4-year-old sister, Peyton, who only saw her baby sister for a few days last fall and hasn’t seen her mom in more than 4 months.
“This has been the hardest thing and then it’s been chock full of blessings,” Juarez said. “It’s been really good for Peyton, because I can teach her through all this how we are going to pay it forward. We do little things to try to bless other people because I always tell her, look how people blessed us.”
So far, the community has donated more than $62,000 for Lawson through the fundraising site GiveSendGo.com.