For four years, Kyle Orent and his fundraising lemonade stand have been a familiar sight around his hometown of Northport. He's the cute kid philanthropist who managed to squeeze tens of thousands of dollars in charitable donations from thirsty folks who needed an ice-cold drink.
Beginning at age 7, Kyle took his stand to local sports games and the annual Cow Harbor Race. He didn't charge for the drinks, but encouraged donations. He raised $20,000 the first year, his mother, Kathy, said. After four years of mashing lemons and auction sales, he's collected $115,000, all for Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that trains dogs to help people with disabilities.
But Kyle's 11 now and a sixth-grader at Northport Middle School, and the lemonade stand has begun to cramp his legs, not to mention his almost-teenager style.
"I'm getting older," he said Thursday night, before accepting a "Local Heroes" award from Bank of America, in a ceremony at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City.
The award, which includes $5,000 donated to the recipient's favorite charity, honors community leaders who contribute significantly to the health of their neighborhood. The bank also donated nearly $450,000 in unrestricted funding to local nonprofit organizations.
Kyle is the youngest recipient in the six years the award has been given, said a bank spokeswoman. He says he wants to be a fundraiser when he grows up. His hero is real estate magnate and TV star Donald Trump.
Why Trump? "He always has a Plan B," Kyle said. "After I sold lemonade, auctions were my Plan B."
Kyle sold his own toys in an online auction, according to his Web site, kyleslemonade.org. He also writes to celebrities such as baseball great Hank Aaron, asking them to autograph dog collars. He auctions the collars on eBay's "Giving" charity site.
Almost a third of the money Kyle raised came from the lemonade stand, and the rest from auctions and matching donations from individuals and corporations.
And he hasn't totally given up on exchanging big glasses of lemonade for big bucks. His mother, Kathy, said Kyle's hoping to recruit younger kids to carry on the lemonade tradition.