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A Grateful Entrepreneur Puts the Squeeze On for a Good Cause

June 21, 2003|Zeke Minaya | Times Staff Writer

For five years, Daniel Spencer was just another frustrated entrepreneur, unable to move his wares.

The 10-year-old tried his hand at paper airplanes, and then fans. But he wasn't able to swing a single sale from the table he had set up in front of his parents' Placentia home, even with sure-fire pitches like "Airplanes! Get your airplanes here!"

Daniel's dry spell ended Friday.

He set up shop outside UCI Medical Center in Orange -- where his younger brother Jarrod was helped with serious health problems after being born with Down's syndrome -- and moved $325 of lemonade. At 50 cents a cup.

The young businessman said he wanted to help the hospital's Child Life program because the staff has been "so kind to me and my family."

Daniel's parents -- accustomed to his sudden business impulses -- said they came home about two weeks ago to find him writing a letter. When asked what he was doing, Daniel -- with all the confidence of a kid comfortable calling adults by their first names -- said he was planning a fund-raiser and that a lemonade stand sounded like a good way to raise cash.

After thinking for a moment, his parents said he added: "But a chain [of lemonade stands] would be better."

This weekend with the help of about eight friends he will have his stands in Anaheim, Brea, Fullerton, Placentia and -- the original location -- UCI Medical Center.

The beneficiary of all this lemonade is a program to help children understand medical procedures and cope with being sick or having a loved one who is ill.

"A hospital can be a big scary place not only for adults but also for kids and the Child Life program, through play therapy and support groups, helps kids express their emotions and teach them about medical procedures," said Kim Pine, a UCI spokeswoman.

When Daniel learned that his brother was sick, he said his first reaction "was crying." He said he thought Jarrod, now 22 months old, was going to die. Daniel, his twin sister, Shauna, and 4-year-old brother, Kelsen, enrolled in the Child Life program.

Hungry to learn as much as he could, Daniel took to the program with a passion, said Angie Carrillo, a specialist with Child Life.

"Daniel is the type that copes by gathering information," Carrillo said. When Jarrod was about to have heart surgery to mend a small hole, Daniel insisted on knowing exactly what the procedure would involve, she said.

"So we set up a conference with a doctor and Daniel."

Jarrod is doing better now, said his mother, Cheryl. She held the youngster as she sat at the lemonade stand Friday, pouring cups along with other relatives.

While Daniel's sister said she had her doubts about brother's business skills, she begrudgingly allowed that "this is one of his few good ideas."

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